Almost everybody has seen a millipede before. As common as they are though, many people have a hard time identifying one when they see it. That’s because there are a few different creatures that look similar and have a tendency to hang out in your garden or backyard.

Whether you’re trying to get rid of problematic millipedes or you just want to learn about the bugs in your backyard, this guide can help. Keep reading to learn about spotting millipedes, their habitat, what they eat and more.

Identification

Millipedes are arthropods that belong to the group Myriapoda. Unlike some other similar creatures, they have spiracles and they do not have direct copulatory organs, meaning they do not mate in a traditional manner.

Millipedes can appear black, brown or red in different light.

Millipedes reproduce by depositing eggs in the soil, which will then hatch over time. Typically they reach sexual maturity, they do not reproduce this way, around the second year of their life. Many millipedes can live about four years if they do not become prey or get removed from a garden or backyard.

What Does a Millipede Look Like?

Millipedes are common in North America, and seeing one in your backyard or garden could be a likely occurrence depending on how much grass and dirt you have. For homes with large gardens or grassy areas, millipedes are almost sure to be found if you choose to look hard enough.

Millipedes are typically about two to four centimeters long with a dark brown appearance, though some may take on a more reddish tone in the sunlight. Certain types of millipedes may appear to be two-toned or striped, but this is generally only because of variations in color on the body of the millipede.

Millipede

Millipede

While you may not think they are the most attractive thing in your garden, millipedes should be easy to identify once you know what you’re looking for. In general, they are found in large groups, though they can be seen one or two at a time.

Are They Insects?

Millipedes are arthropods, though many people assume that they are insects. Because of their appearance this is a pretty easy mistake to make.

The main difference is the way their bodies are made up:

  • An insect has three main body segments.
  • Millipedes have considerably more body segments. Insects also have three pairs of legs, which does not match up with the millipede.

How Many Legs Does a Millipede Have?

Millipedes legsMillipedes, because they are arthropods, have legs on every segment of their body, which is a lot more than the three that insects have. What most people don’t realize though is that millipedes don’t actually have a set number of legs.

A millipede can have anywhere from approximately 40 to 400 legs. Millipedes are also able to stay healthy and continue to move if some of their legs are damaged.

As millipedes get older, their number of legs may actually change over time!

Habitat

Millipedes definitely have a preferred habitat and a place they want to live in your garden or backyard.

Moist habitats are where many people find millipedes:

  • Under rocks, beneath beds of wet leaves or near the roots of plants are typically where you will see millipedes.
  • Piles of grass clippings, especially right after your lawn is mowed, may also make an ideal short-term home for millipedes.

Millipedes under rock

In many cases, millipedes do not move far from home since they tend to find food in the same area. While it isn’t too unlikely that you’ll see a millipede in a grassy area, they’re much more common in areas with dirt, flowers and plants.

You may also find millipedes under your home, beneath exterior structures like garden sheds, or beneath a dog house type enclosure.

Diet

A lot of people worry that millipedes in their garden will eat bugs that actually help with the soil or keep more problematic pests away, millipedes have a vegetarian diet. In fact, they may actually be able to improve the quality of your soil, helping your flowers and plants thrive year round.

Millipede eating lemonMany people confuse millipedes with centipedes for obvious reasons, but when it comes to their diet, they couldn’t be much different. While centipedes hunt for pray like small flies or mosquitoes, millipedes thrive primarily on decaying matter like leaves and parts of plants.

To find out more details on difference between centipedes and millipedes, go here.

Millipedes may seem like a garden nuisance, but they are actually a part of the life cycle of soil, helping with decomposition and nutrient properties.

What Attracts Millipedes?

Millipedes are attracted to an area because it makes for a good habitat and is home to a potential food source. Typically, food sources include wet leaves and decaying organic matter.

Since millipedes like to live in dark, moist environments, beds of nutrient-rich soil used for planting are common backyard homes for them. They can also be found in plants or pots of dirt and areas around your home that are watered regularly since they prefer the moisture.

Are They Hurting My Garden?

Millipedes may seem like a nuisance to a lot of people, and while they aren’t necessarily pleasant viewing, they are not hurting your soil. The fact is that millipedes are an important part of creating long-term healthy soil in many places because they tend to eat decaying, dead matter.

Millipede in the gardenToo many millipedes in your garden may be problematic for planting, but if you only see a few every once in a while, they’re probably actually helping your soil do its work. You might even want to thank them, at least in part, if your flowers, fruits or vegetables are thriving!

Are Millipedes Poisonous? Find further detaills here. Many people are more familiar with centipedes than millipedes because of their unique colors and large size. This makes them much more likely fodder for nature television shows and photographs.

Unlike centipedes though, millipedes do not bite and they are not poisonous to animals or people. Instead, they thrive on a vegetarian diet that will actually benefit most homeowners.

Tip
Millipedes tend to move very slowly, so they can easily be moved from one part of your home to another. Finding millipedes under your dog house for example may be a problem, but moving them to your garden could improve your soil. Collect millipedes with wet or porous dirt and simply move them in a plastic container or with a garden shovel.

What Eats Millipedes?

Millipedes are not exactly high on the food chain, and in the average backyard, they are prey for a number of different animals:

  • Shrews, badgers, birds, raccoons, possums and toads will all eat millipedes if they are able to find them in the dirt. These animals can easily eat large groups of millipedes when they find them in the dirt.
  • In many cases, larger animals like badgers will go after full-grown millipedes with ease.
  • Young millipedes are especially susceptible to being hunted by other animals. Large ants, ground beetles and even spiders can eat groups of young millipedes.

MillipedeMillipedes may not be the most attractive thing in your garden, but they don’t do any damage to your outdoor space. In fact, they may actually be providing useful benefits when it comes to the nutrient value of your soil.

Unlike centipedes, they also do not sting or bite, so they aren’t going to cause any harm if you, your children or your pets come into contact with them. While you might still want to wear gloves if you need to collect and move them, they aren’t going to bring any harm your way.

If you do need to move millipedes, collecting them along with soil that they are attracted to is your best bet. Typically wherever you find the millipedes will be an area where the soil is right for them.
If you’re going to transplant them to your garden to improve the soil, try to take as much of the soil that they like there. Otherwise they may leave your garden to try and find a better food source.

You can find further details of Millipedes Control here.