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Identifying and Controlling Millipedes and Centipedes

Millipedes and Centipedes 

Millipedes and centipedes are often confused for each other. Millipedes are usually dark colored and have two pairs of legs per body segment. Centipedes, on the other hand, come in many colors and sizes and have only one pair of legs per body segment. Millipedes are, generally, slow moving creatures that break down dead plant material. They are beneficial to your garden as they feed on the dead plant material and return lawn fertilizing nutrients to the soil. 

Varieties of Millipedes and Centipedes 

Centipedes are predacious, feeding on many harmful insects that can damage your landscape plants. They are very fast runners. The fastest are the ones with the fewest number of legs. They will rise up as they run and settle back down when they stop. There are about 3,000 centipede species throughout the world. They all possess a poison gland that opens through their jaws. None of the species are known to be very dangerous, although, there are species in the southwestern U.S. that can cause a temporarily painful bite. 

Both millipedes and centipedes can be found hiding in the damp soil under rocks or boards. They often emerge from compost that is turned over, or when digging in the soil. Sometimes you may find a centipede in your house. This is normally a species known as the house centipede. They, also, exist outdoors and can be found across the U.S. as well as Europe. 

They have 15 pairs of legs, are about one 1” long, and are often found running across the floor or walls. They hunt many insects that may already be in the house, such as flies. They don't bite and will help to rid the house of other insect pests. Before you decide to swat a centipede or millipede with a newspaper, or crush it under your foot, remember they are very beneficial to the overall well-being of your lawn and garden. They are not attractive and do look menacing, but they are an integral part of the ecosystem. 

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