Millipedes in the Basement

“I have several little worms in my basement that curl up at the touch.” So starts a reader’s lament, in reference to a possible millipede problem in his basement. (Millipedes, by the way, are not actually worms, but they do look like them, so referring to millipedes as “small worms” is reasonable.) The reader goes on to say that water has been leaking into his basement, and he thinks that this might be responsible for the large amount of millipedes in his basement. Not surprisingly, he wants to know how to get rid of the millipedes.

First, why are we so certain the reader is in fact dealing with millipedes? For one, this is the reader’s suspicion, and who are we to question the person who is actually witnessing and dealing with the problem? And two, millipedes are often identified by their defining defense mechanism – curling up – which the reader explicitly mentions. So, we are fairly certain that our reader is dealing with millipedes, and we shall tailor our response accordingly.

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The reader mentioned a water leak in his basement, but unfortunately this isn’t the only possible reason for the millipedes presence. (We say “unfortunately” because if the leak were the only thing to blame, the solution to the millipede problem would be simple: address the leak and the millipedes will be a threat to our reader’s basement no longer.) Millipedes don’t like extremes, so they’ll migrate to dryer places when overwhelmed with moisture, like during heavy rainfall, and they’ll move to moister, cooler places during droughts. The climate in which our reader finds himself is of course something only he can evaluate, but if perchance he lives in a dry area, or if the area in which he lives has been dry as of late, he should address the leak, and this will probably go a long way toward addressing the millipede issue. And even if the reader doesn’t live in a particularly dry place, millipedes prefer some moisture, so a damp basement would be an inviting place for millipedes.

Speaking of dampness, millipedes are often found in wet organic debris, like piles of moist leaves, so our reader should be sure to remove any such accumulations around the house. Unfortunately, millipedes don’t need an entire pile of wet debris to survive – they can get by on much less. This means that any moist soil, mulch, etc. around the house could attract millipedes. While some moisture in this area is unavoidable, it is important to make sure that one is not exacerbating the problem by, say, not having rain gutters, or by landscaping in such a way that funnels water toward the foundations of one’s house.

Even if our reader’s house is surrounded by moisture, though, he can still prevent a lot of creatures (including millipedes) from getting in his house if he seals openings around the basement. Caulking cracks and blocking drafts is key if you want to keep pests out of the house.

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To sum, our reader should begin by removing the millipedes currently in the house (they breed quickly and lay lots of eggs, so they need to be gotten rid off lest another generation will be begotten). Next, eliminate the leak into the basement, and while you are at it evaluate if moisture is coming toward your house because of a design or landscaping issue. Finally, seal up any gaps to the outside world that may afford a pest entrance. The occasional millipede may find its way into the house, but performing the above should help to prevent any sort of millipede infestation.

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