Perhaps you have seen "thousand-legged worms" or millipedes in your yard or home and wondered what strange, worm-like creature you were dealing with.
Millipedes are an arthropod relative of insects and can be distinguished from centipedes by the number of legs per body segment. Millipedes have two legs per segment but centipedes have only one.
Though usually found in damp locations outside, millipedes can become a problem inside the house and cause homeowners a great deal of concern. Invasions of households are often sudden and sporadic. They feed primarily on decaying organic material; rarely on living tissue. They do not bite people or damage household furnishings directly. However, they will leave a mess and give off an odor if crushed. The disagreeable odor is their defense when disturbed.
The worm-like millipede is most often brownish-black in color. Their legs ripple as they move and they will often curl up into a "C" shape like a watch spring if touched. You may not see the legs unless viewing the millipede from the side.
Millipedes require high moisture conditions in order to survive. If moisture is not present they often die in a day or two after entering a house. Dead millipede bodies can then be vacuumed. Dispose of the bag promptly. Drying out any moist areas inside (such as leaks under sinks) will help with control. Sealing and caulking around openings in the foundations will help keep populations low. If the infestation is severe and the above measures do not solve the problem, spraying with Dursban (chlorpyrifos) in a 3-foot band around the outside of the house will take care of millipedes before they enter the structure. Remember to read and follow label directions carefully on any chemical treatment.
--The Garden Calendar is sponsored by K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County and written this week by Master Gardener Dottie Daugherty. For more information call the Master Gardener Hotline, 843-7058, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.