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Millipedes becoming a nuisance

The 90-something-degree heat of an Alabama summer day is balanced by the modern amenity of indoor air conditioning, a comfort enjoyed by men, women, children and now millipedes.

“They will come by the thousands into people’s houses,” said Steven Fitts, manager at Selma Pest Control. “They’re an outside pest, but they will crawl up the walls and get in the house.”

These unwanted visitors find their way into homes each spring and summer, seeking cool, damp and dark places to hide from the high temperatures of summer.

“It’s usually around this time of year that we have a lot of calls on them,” Fitts said. “It seems to be the hotter it gets, the worse they are.”

Mainly found in piles of decaying matter like leaves, pine straw or mulch, millipedes travel inside homes through cracks in doors, windows or other small openings.

To discourage the insects from finding a way into the home, remove piles of the aforementioned decaying material from beside a home’s exterior. If found in the home, sweep or vacuum the insects to remove them.

“They get in [the decaying material], and it gives them easier access to get into the house,” Fitts said. “We usually do a treatment, like around the outside, to try to keep them from coming in.”

Fitts and the Selma Pest Control use a chemical called bifenthrin, an insecticide that affects the nervous system of insects, to remove millipedes from the exteriors of homes.

Homeowners can also purchase powdered insecticides to place outside the home and in areas of potential entry, but it is not necessary to remove all millipedes from a yard or garden area because they do not harm the foliage.

“They will eat the decaying material, but they do not touch plant roots or plant leaves,” said Greg Bjelke, owner of Four Seasons Garden Center. “They’re just scavengers that feed on decaying plant matter.”

Millipedes are not poisonous, although they will roll into a spiral ball and emit an odor when disturbed or frightened, but it is not poisonous.

“They don’t hurt anything and they don’t bite,” Bjelke said. “They’re just a nuisance.”

Millipedes, common in North America, are brown or black-segmented insects.

Although “milli” is Latin for 1,000 and “pede” is Latin for foot, the insects actually have about 750 legs.