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March of the Millipedes

Though there are many species of millipede, our most common local variety is known as Oxidus garcilis, or the greenhouse millipede. Though they feed on the roots and organic matter in lawns, these pest do not damage turf. Rather, it’s their imposing migrations that become problematic for homeowners. That’s because despite their namesake, these pests don’t limit themselves to the confines of any greenhouse. Instead, each year, these poly
-pedaled pests emerge nightly and begin their annual migration across lawns and through landscaping in order to mate. These determined diplopods also manage to wander their way up foundations, and—in some cases—inside our homes. Such migrations usually occur toward the end of summer or early fall, but occasionally a spring swarm takes place as we’re seeing in some areas this year.

Usually, these migrations are somewhat reasonable, with perhaps only a dozen or so millipedes seen outside on any given day. Other times they can seem to reach epidemic proportions, and the severity of their swarm is directly related to immediate and local environmental conditions.

Though some may wonder why they’re only just now seeing a millipede migration after perhaps living in Florida for many years, a more appropriate question may be: “What environmental conditions are now present that haven’t been present in years past?” In fact, when called upon for millipede problems, our technicians are trained to inspect your home and property to determine which type of environmental conditions may be causing the infestation.

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Conditions that contribute to millipede problems include excessive leaf-litter beneath landscaping, standing water (such as that found by AC units), firewood or other objects being stored too closely to the home, and gaps in weather stripping, stucco, or siding which allow easy entry into your home.

But of all causal conditions, by far the most common is an over-watered lawn. This is because millipedes require high moisture for their survival and reproduction. Too much water, however (such as after a heavy rain), will flood millipedes out of the lawn, sending them looking for higher ground, which is often your front doorstep.

So what should you do if you find millipedes in or around your home? Well, although it’s natural to find them outside and even the occasional wanderer inside, an inordinate number (several daily) may be an indication of an underlying problem. It’s at this point that you should check your watering schedule, making sure all irrigation zones are through running just as the sun begins to rise. This allows any excess moisture to evaporate. Also, by removing any excess thatch or leaf litter you’ll limit their food source and also allow these areas to maintain a proper moisture balance.

In some cases where the migrations are unusually heavy, we encourage you to contact us so that we can dispatch one of our technicians to evaluate environmental conditions and apply any appropriate products needed. By working together, you can be sure we’ll keep these persistent pests at bay!