A while ago a reader wrote to us about some brown and black worms she is finding all over her apartment, including on her tile floor and the rug in her bedroom, as well as on the walls of her house. When they die, the worms “curl into a circle.” The reader refers to the worms in quotes, indicating that she is using the term loosely, and we think she is right in doing this, as it seems she is finding millipedes. However, the reader anticipated this suggestion, and said that she thinks the creatures she is finding are too skinny to be millipedes. So, below we explore our reader’s situation in more depth, trying to decipher if she found millipedes or something else.
In radical contrast to some of the questions we receive, the reader wrote us a thorough and lucid description of her problem, which we will quote in its entirety so that her full situation is understood. She also didn’t provide a picture, so her words are all we have. Here is her email to us:
ATTENTION: GET PARASITE HELP NOW! At All About Worms we get a lot of questions about skin parasites, blood parasites, and intestinal parasites in humans. Because we can't diagnose you, we have put together this list of doctors and labs who understand and specialize in dealing with parasites in humans! That resource is HERE
“These “worms” are brown or black, about 3/4 of an inch long, very thin, and when they die they usually curl into a circle. Most the time they are on the tile floor, but recently I have found them on my rug in the bedroom and a few have been crawling on the wall. I have found them all over the concrete floor of my patio area. I can’t seem to find where they are coming from. One minute I look on the floor and it looks clear, 10 seconds later I look at the same area and there’s one crawling, like it came from nowhere. So far I have killed hundreds. RAID seems to do the trick the best, but the smell is making me sick and they still keep coming!!!!!!! My place looks like a war zone with all the tiny dead carcasses. I’m sorry I don’t have a picture. I live in a nice size apartment, which is basically the basement of a house in Vermont. I like it here but I can’t put up with much more of this. Please help! Could you possibly identify what ever they are? I think they are too skinny to be millipedes. Thank you for any assistance you can give.”
Clearly, the reader is confronting a fairly bad problem, and unfortunately getting rid of any sort of pest can be difficult. However, the first step is identifying the pest, and we think she found millipedes, despite her belief to the contrary. We think this because a few factors point in this direction, and nothing else in her description points us in a different direction.
First, the “worms” she is finding curl into a circle when they are killed, and this is exactly what millipedes do when they are threatened. (They do this to protect their vulnerable underside with their hardened backs.) So, a millipede that is in the process of being killed (or is already dead) would naturally coil up. They coil after shuffling off this mortal coil. Second, the reader’s apartment is in a basement, and basements (along with garages) are probably the most common place in a house to find millipedes. (We have specifically written about basements and millipedes before.) Basements tend to be darker and damper then other regions of a house, and thus millipedes often make their way there. Finally, the reader mentions that the smell in her apartment is making her sick, and although this no doubt can be partially attributed to the RAID, it is worth mentioning that millipedes are known to smell bad. (Like the coiling, the secretion of foul-smelling chemicals is a defense mechanism.) The foul smell could therefore be partially attributed to the millipedes, if this is in fact what she is finding. So, despite their slender body shape (which doesn’t really seem to count against the millipede hypothesis anyway), it seems most likely that our reader is finding millipedes.
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Of course, we are far from certain this is the case, but it is the best suggestion we can offer based on what we know of our reader’s situation. And if she is finding millipedes, she might consider reading our article about millipedes in the house, which gives some basic advice about getting rid of the creatures. We wish our reader the best of luck, and hope she can handle the problem swiftly and smoothly.