We just received a photograph and a short message from one of our readers. He wrote, “I think, according to your site, this is a millipede. What do they eat and are they harmful to lawns? We have an infestation of these.” This is the picture he sent us:
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We agree with our reader, this is indeed a millipede! Millipedes are technically arthropods, not worms. They have brown segmented bodies with two pairs of jointed legs per body segment, and antennae coming off their heads. Also, they curl up into a C-shape as a defense mechanism. Millipedes are easy to recognize based off of their physical traits or defensive behavior.
In their natural habitat, millipedes are scavengers. These arthropods feed on damp and decaying wood particles, decaying leaves, and other plant material. They may also resort to eating living plants. Millipedes need a lot of moisture to survive, so they prefer to live in damp areas. In a yard they often camp out in gardens or flowerbeds, and under mulch, dead leaves, or grass clippings. Since millipedes eat dead plant material and return lawn fertilizing nutrients to the soil, they are actual beneficial not harmful. However, their presence can still be annoying to some people.
If our reader wants to see less of these arthropods, he should alter his yard slightly to make it less hospitable for the millipedes. He can sweep away old mulch and replace it with fresh mulch or straw. He can also sweep dead leaf litter and debris away to get rid of potential food sources for the millipedes. In addition, he can arrange wood or mulch piles in his yard to eliminate damp and dark areas for millipedes to inhabit.
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To summarize, a reader wrote to us about an infestation of millipedes he is experiencing. To get rid of millipedes, he should make his yard less hospitable for these arthropods.