Have you seen a worm-like creature crawling around on your bathroom floor? Around the drain in your sinks? Chances are it was the larvae of the moth fly. Moth flies, also called “drain flies,” “filter flies,” or “sewer flies,” are grayish or dark. They have hundreds of fine hairs covering the wings and the body. You can find moth flies resting indoors with their wings held over their bodies, like a roof. They can be found resting on bathroom walls and around drain-like surfaces. The larvae are less than ¼ of an inch long. They have small suction discs along their bellies to help suction to slippery surfaces. They have a distinct head and a somewhat flattened body. They do not have legs.
The larvae of moth flies like to hang around drains, within drains, underneath drain plugs and screens, and inside of pipes. They feed on the gelatinous film found in these areas of bathroom sinks, tubs, and toilets and well as kitchen sinks.
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Moth flies develop through four stages: egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. Moth flies have many generations each year and they occur anytime of the year in moist coastal regions – indoors and outdoors. Moth flies are common outdoors during the winter and spring months in California – mainly the interior areas.
If you want to avoid a moth fly infestation, there are several management methods you can use. You should screen windows and doors and reduce moisture and organic debris. To keep moth flies from multiplying, fix leaking plumbing immediately. You should also clean muck that collects in drains or under dripping taps, and brush or wash away slime under drain plugs, screens, and inside the top of drainpipes, above the water level in the J-trap. Cleaners that can help with this include Bio Drain gel or Bio Clean powder.
Biological control, such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), can be effective as well as insecticides. Bt is a naturally occurring bacterial disease of insects that are also the active ingredient in some insecticides. Bt is considered safe to people and nontarget species. Insecticides can be used outdoors, but they are not recommended for use in the home. Visit your local hardware store, home and garden store or retail superstore for insecticide options.
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What About Millipedes?
If you witnessed a worm-like creature, with what appears to be more than 100 legs, racing across your bathroom or kitchen floor, chances are it wasn’t really a worm. While it’s easy to mistake these leggy creatures for worms due to their elongated segmented-like bodies, the more accurate you are at identifying them, the better you will be at controlling a possible infestation. This worm-like creature can pass for a worm if you’re not paying attention, but the truth is, it’s actually an immature millipede.
When millipedes first hatch, they only have around three pairs of legs, giving the appearance of a worm. Keep in mind that the millipede’s legs multiply rather rapidly. Additional millipede legs grow after each molt. Millipede eggs are either white, creamy yellow, or brown. They are smooth and spherical, and toughly 0.4 mm in diameter. Because of a sticky secretion, millipede eggs adhere in clusters. Millipede larvae are smaller than adults, of course.
Adult millipedes range in color from gray to brown. These anthropods are worm-like with cylindrical bodies. They are typically 13 to 38 mm long with a pair of short antennae. The adult millipede has at least 30 pairs of legs, although it can look like they have much more. So much more that the millipede earned the nicknames “thousand-legged worm,” “thousand-legged spider,” and “hundred-legged worm.” Millipedes have a large number of segments with at least two legs attached to most body segments. While it may look like millipedes mover at warp speed, they actually move very slowly as their legs move in a wave-like motion.
Although millipedes and centipedes may look alike at first glance, a second look will reveal many differences. Centipedes have flattened bodies and a pair of long, slender antennae. They also have a pair of claws just behind the head. Centipedes have roughly 15 pairs of long legs and only one pair on most of its body segments. Centipedes are the faster of the two, so they are tougher to catch.
Millipedes (and centipedes) live in just about every part of the world. Millipedes prefer to live in dark, damp places, while centipedes prefer places where they can hunt for insects and spiders. The millipede prefers to eat moist, decaying organic matter. Chances are, most people will come across a millipede and not a centipede, specifically the greenhouse millipede.
The types of millipedes and centipedes that enter homes usually do not bite. This doesn’t mean that these anthropods are welcome visitors. If you see many of them in a short period of time, they can become a nuisance.
Outdoor millipedes feed on vegetation and they can do plenty of damage to turf. Fortunately, there are many ways to control them.
One of the easiest ways to control millipede populations is to take away their food and shelter source. If you destroy their feeding and breeding grounds they will hunt for another place to dine and reproduce. Other ways to control millipede populations in the home is to repair (seal) splits and cracks in foundation walls, and around doors, basement windows, and similar openings. Properly ventilated basements and crawl spaces are a turn off for millipedes (and centipedes) as well. And finally, some basic cleaning should help as well. If you remove food sources, clean, repair cracks, and destroy all food and shelter sources and you still see a millipede or two here and there, you can try chemical control. Visit any hardware or home and garden retailer to browse through a number of effective options.