Autumn is the peak time for the patter of tiny feet….. lots of them….. it's the time that millipedes are on the move! Although millipedes are found all over Australia, those living in the Southern states (Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and SW Western Australia) are particularly at risk of a millipede home invasion! Why? This is where the Portuguese millipede likes to hang out.
The Portuguese millipede is black and shiny and can be up to 45 mm long. Like most millipedes, they prefer cool, damp places where there is lots of decaying plant material (their favourite food) - so garden beds with plenty of mulch are a millipede heaven. Autumn is breeding time. After a long warm Summer, millipede numbers have built up and they are looking to find a mate. Once they have mated, the millipedes disperse and with the cooler temperatures in Autumn they go looking for warmth and shelter. Portuguese millipedes are one of the few millipedes that are attracted to light….. making your home a very attractive location!
Although millipede invasions can be very annoying, they are generally harmless. In fact, as they eat decaying plant material, they are great re-cyclers to have in the garden. However, they can release pungent secretions to avoid been eaten by birds and these secretions can be irritating if they get in your eyes and can stain flooring, clothes and skin. So now we are entering peak Millipede season, what can you do to keep them out of your home…
General tips to prevent millipede entry
- Keep garden beds away from the edge of the house. If this is not possible use a non-plant mulch, such as pebbles, instead of organic mulches such as wood chips or sugar cane.
- Avoid watering garden beds next to the house.
- Seal up potential entry points to the house and make sure doors, insects screens and draft excluders are well fitted
Specific tips to prevent Portuguese millipede entry
- Place smooth rounded physical barriers around the perimeter of the home at ground level to prevent millipedes climbing into your home (they cannot climb smooth surfaces)
- During millipede season, turn off lights or use well fitted blinds / curtains to make your home less attractive to Portuguese millipedes
- Place alternative light sources away from the house to attract the millipedes. A light over a bucket in the ground works wonders!
Pest Control treatments for millipedes
Inside the house: Most insecticides sprays will kill a millipede. However, you need to be careful if you spray a millipede inside the house, as it can release its pungent excretion and stain the floor. (The same reason it is not a good idea to stamp on one!). The best bet for millipedes entering the house is to sweep them up and place them in a bucket and you can then spray them in the bucket.
Outside the house: A insecticide spray around the perimeter of the house (1 m spray width) and in garden beds will dramatically reduce millipede numbers. Make sure the product is labelled for millipede use.