Millipedes and Centipedes | Greenleaf Organic Pest Management, Inc.

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Fri, Feb 02, 2018 @ 08:17 AM

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A Few Facts About Millipedes, Centipedes, and IPM

Insects with six legs are creepy enough. Insects whose names advertise that they have a thousand (millipede) or even one hundred (centipede) legs are downright daunting. What do you do if these weird creatures show up in your house? First, don't panic, because most centipedes and millipedes mean you no harm.

Understand that you can use natural methods to prevent and limit millipede and centipede invasions. Practice integrated pest management (IPM) to control all sorts of pests in and around your home. Here are some facts to help you manage millipedes and centipedes.

Differences Between Millipedes and Centipedes

Centipedes and millipedes are beneficial arthropods. They're some of the oldest land animals known to scientists. Both are types of arthropods that have evolved as efficient members of the ecosystem.


Millipedes are the sleeker arthropods of the two types. Millipedes are from the Diplopoda class of arthropods. Each one of their body segments contains two to four pairs of legs. Millipedes move in an undulating fashion similar to caterpillars. They roll up into a tight ball when disturbed.

Millipedes accidentally stumble into your home and don't actually harm anything. Some millipedes excrete a substance that can cause discomfort to skin, but this is a rare occurrence.

Other identifying features of millipedes are:

  • Slow moving
  • Nonbiting
  • No rear-facing hind legs

There are over 12,000 species of millipedes in the world. The most common types of millipedes found in California are the greenhouse millipede, the bulb millipede, and the common millipede. Millipedes can be steel-gray to brownish in color, and some have bi-colored body segments.

Millipedes are attracted to damp soil, rotting wood, and fecal matter. These small creatures help break down soil and turn it back into fertile growing media. In some areas, millipedes also eat insects they find in the soil.


Centipedes are arthropods from the Chilopoda class. They're efficient hunters and help get rid of problem pests including roaches, bedbugs, termites, and flies. In fact, if you see a large invasion of centipedes, it could be a sign of another pest problem in your home.

Centipedes come out at night after hiding in cracks and crevices of closets, cabinets, and baseboards. The common house centipede is a frequent invader of California homes. It has gray markings and really long legs.

When a long-legged centipede dashes across a wall or floor with no warning, the pest's movement can make a person jump. Silverfish have a similar darting movement, but centipedes are often much longer creatures.

Here are some other features of centipedes:

  • They are fast moving
  • They will bite if provoked
  • They don't curl up when touched
  • They have backward-facing rear legs

There are around 8,000 species of centipedes in the world. These hardy arthropods even live inside the Arctic Circle. You may encounter a dozen or so varieties of centipedes in California.

Centipedes can have long or short legs and come in a variety of colors. Tiger centipedes are yellow and black as their name suggests. They are one of the venomous centipedes found in California desert areas, but they rarely enter homes in the region.

Things That Tempt Millipedes and Centipedes

Millipedes want piles of leaves and rotting organic matter to roll around in, and they're happy to explore under the mulch around your home's landscaping. All it takes is a crack in the home's foundation, and a curious millipede is wandering around in your basement.

Millipedes are also attracted to wet areas in crawlspaces, sheds, and garages. If leaf litter and dirt are mixed in with the moisture, millipedes want to be there.

Centipedes love to munch on termites. If your home is suffering a termite invasion, the centipede will show up for a ready food source. Termites and centipedes both love the same damp crawlspace and basement environments, so they coexist well under leaky pipes and damp joists. The centipede finds juicy bugs, settles down, calls your place home, and starts feasting.

Integrated Pest Management for Centipedes and Millipedes

When you practice whole-house IPM, you learn to spot the ways your home is tempting pests. You learn to remove those temptations so you don't attract pests. For effective centipede and millipede IPM, focus on the following tasks:

  • Clean up debris around foundation
  • Seal cracks in basement or foundation
  • Address moisture issues in crawl space or basement
  • Reduce mulch in landscaping and garden
  • Use fans and dehumidifiers in bathrooms and humid spaces

If you see a lot of centipedes, have your pest-control professional inspect your home for the insects the centipedes are hunting. When you get rid of the roaches, termites, or flies that are the food sources for centipedes, the centipedes move on to more productive hunting spots.

It's not advisable to use strong chemical insecticides to eliminate centipedes and millipedes. Most can be caught in a container and set free outside. If you prefer not to rehome these multilegged creatures, that's understandable. Your pest control company will help you eliminate the centipede or millipede infestation and help you practice IPM for all types of home invaders.

Contact Greenleaf Organic Pest Management, Inc., today to learn more about the pests around your home. We handle indoor and outdoor pests for homeowners in the Greater Los Angeles area.