One of our readers recently asked us, “Are these thin black worms with lots of legs good for my plants?” She either forgot to include a picture or didn’t take one, so we will attempt to answer her question without referring to a photo.
We suspect she might be talking about millipedes. While millipedes aren’t technically worms (they are arthropods) they do have thin, long, worm-like bodies. Their length and color vary depending on what species they are, but all millipedes have segmented bodies and two pairs of jointed legs per segment. Here is a picture of a millipede from Wikimedia:
Common millipede, photo by Praveenp (CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Millipedes are often confused with centipedes, which are also arthropods. Millipedes and centipedes both have thin, segmented bodies with many legs. However, millipedes are typically rounder, like the creature in the photo, and have two pairs of jointed legs per segment. Centipedes have flatter bodies, and only have one pair of jointed legs per segment. Also, millipedes are more often black or dark brown, and centipedes are lighter colored. Therefore, we think our reader is probably dealing with millipedes, not centipedes.
Both millipedes and centipedes are often found in gardens. Millipedes are slower moving vegetarians that feed on dead plant material and debris. Centipedes are predators that attack and eat insects. Both arthropods are beneficial to a garden, as long as their population sizes are kept in check. If there are too many millipedes and not enough dead plant matter to feed on, they might start eating living plants. In addition, an abundance of centipedes might mean that they begin to eat insects that are beneficial to the garden, not just pests.
To keep millipede and centipede populations in check, our reader can reduce the moisture levels in her garden by clearing out any areas where water collects. She can also clear out any debris so they have fewer options when it comes to food. All in all, we don’t think our reader needs to worry about these creatures because they are generally considered to be helpful, not harmful!
To wrap up, one of our readers asked about the impact of “thin black worms with many legs” on her plants. We believe she is probably dealing with millipedes, and that she shouldn’t worry because they are typically beneficial. If she doesn’t think the creatures are millipedes, we invite her to send in a photo of the mysterious black worms.
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The Impact of Thin Black Worms on Plants
One of our readers asked about the impact of "thin black worms with many legs" on her plants. We believe she is probably dealing with millipedes, and that she shouldn't worry because they are typically beneficial.