Centipedes and Millipedes 
Barb Ogg, Extension Educator 
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Centipedes and millipedes are not insects because they have more than six legs, but they are closely related invertebrates. When outdoors, these invertebrates are innocuous organisms, but they may be considered pests when they share living space with us. Both of these groups of invertebrates have long, segmented bodies with either one pair (centipedes) or two pairs (millipedes) of legs on each segment. Their food preferences vary greatly. 
 

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Centipedes 

Centipedes have pair of poison claws behind the head and use the poison to paralyze their prey, usually small insects. However, the jaws of centipedes are weak and can rarely penetrate human skin. The rare individuals who are bitten may experience localized swelling and pain no worse than a bee sting. 

   Centipede
The house centipede is found throughout the United States. This centipede can be found outside under stones, boards, or sticks or beneath moist leaf litter and other organic matter. When disturbed, centipedes move swiftly toward darkened hiding places. When they are found in homes, they are often found in moist basements, damp closets and in bathrooms. Centipedes require moist habitats. If they are plentiful, there may be an underlying moisture problem that should be corrected. 
 

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Millipedes 

Millipedes are similar to centipedes, but have two pairs of legs per body segment. Some people mistakenly refer to them as "wireworms." (Wireworms are the larval stage of a beetle that feeds on roots of plants.) Millipedes are usually brown to blackish in color. The elongated body is rounded, no flattened, and they have no poison claws or legs. They usually coil up when disturbed, similar to the behavior exhibited by sowbugs or pillbugs (a related invertebrate). Millipedes are usually restricted to moist places where they feed on organic matter. In the fall, they may become a nuisance because they migrate away from feeding areas and invade homes. Because they crawl along the ground, they are usually found in lower floors and basements. Once inside the home, they usually die due to desiccation, although in moist basements, they can survive longer. 

   Millipede
Millipedes live in organic matter (leaves, mulch, piles of wood or wood chips) and other material close to the house. Overmulching and/or overwatering in the garden can result in millipede attack on vegetable plants. Removing the organic debris or mulch materials near your home will help reduce the potential for invading millipedes. 
 


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