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Attack of the Garden Millipedes!

My wife and I try to make resolutions we can keep every year but it seems we can never keep all of them. I finally had to stop putting “make new friends” on my list because apparently, I’m not very good at that. One thing I do plan on doing again this year is fixing up our house. Last year we got a lot done but it seems like it never ends. While I was working on the carport towards the end of last year though, like many of you, I found these little worm-like insects everywhere! Then I starting noticing them everywhere in town I walked too! I even had several of you bring in baggies full of these creatures. After a little studying I identified them as Garden Millipedes and that will be our topic today.

                The garden millipede (Oxidus gracilis) is member of the Polydesmida order of millipedes. This order is the largest of all millipede orders and contains all species that produce hydrogen cyanide. There are approximately 3,500 species in this one order! The garden millipede is widely spread and is typically light brown with cream colored legs. One way to identify this type of millipede is easy with a magnifying glass as the have large “shoulders” that cover each pair of legs. One thing you may also be wondering is how to tell a centipede from a millipede, which is also easy. Millipedes have 2 pairs of legs per body segment and centipedes only have 1 par.

                Now like I mentioned before, these millipedes release liquid cyanide as a defense mechanism. As a good rule of thumb, you shouldn’t handle millipedes or centipedes. You would have to pick up a big load of these guys and hold them for a while for them to hurt you, but its not worth the risk. Plus, there are other species that can severely hurt you, such as the Yellow-Spotted Millipede. Several species of centipedes can really hurt you if they bite you too. From the top view it can be hard to determine what’s safe and what isn’t and many species look similar, so let’s just not handle these guys at all to be safe.                 I’m sure when you opened your paper today you didn’t expect to get a lesson on millipedes and to be truthful this is a new subject for me too. It should be noted that these are not insects but belong to a completely different class in the animal kingdom (Diplopoda). If you have more information on these millipedes or still have problems with them, give us a call at the extension office (229-524-2326). Be safe and have a happy new year!