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How to Get Rid of Millipedes from Houseplants Without Harming Them

How to Get Rid of Millipedes from Houseplants
Though millipedes are not known to cause extensive damage to plants, they might sometimes damage seedlings or bedding plants. Gardenerdy enumerates a few methods on how to get rid of millipedes from houseplants.
Smita Pandit
Last Updated: Apr 22, 2018
Avoid handling millipedes with your bare hands, as they might spray a liquid that could irritate the skin or leave behind a bad odor. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water to get rid of the odor.
Millipedes are myriapodous arthropods that belong to Diplopoda class, Arthropoda phylum, and Myriapoda subphylum. They have segmented bodies, with at least two pairs of legs on each segment. Their average length is about 1½ inches. They are light-brown to black in color. The number of body segments varies according to the age and species. The number of segments on an adult millipede could range from 15 - 150, which is why they are sometimes called thousand-legged worms.

Placed in the category of detritivores, they feed on dead and decaying plant matter. Millipedes don't bite, but they do make use of some defense mechanisms. They often curl their body on being touched. They prefer a moist environment, which is why they thrive around rotting logs, dead leaves, etc. They can be a cause of concern for homeowners, when they infest houseplants, or wander into the house.
Natural Ways to Deal with a Millipede Infestation
More often than not, millipedes are not considered as pests, as they don't often cause damage to plants. They are scavengers, as they feed on decomposed vegetation. In fact, they are looked upon as beneficial, as they recycle organic matter. However, they could sometimes cause damage to the stems and tender leaves of seedlings. Also, they are known to feed on overripe fallen fruits, flower bulbs, tubers, soft growth, etc. Since these arthropods reproduce at a fast rate, and they can move from the garden to the moist areas of your home, it is advisable to find ways to prevent or control an infestation. Here are some simple ways to get rid of millipedes naturally.
Eliminate Their Food Sources
The best way to deal with a millipede infestation is to remove decaying organic matter from the pots and the garden. Millipedes feed on decomposing vegetation, which includes dead foliage, rotting wood, spent flowers, soft growth, seedlings, fallen fruits, soft bulbs, roots, etc. If their food sources are readily available in your garden, lawn, or indoor plants, they are likely to make it their home. In fact, they reproduce quickly, which can cause them to move from one pot to another. So, make sure that you check your houseplants for the signs of an infestation. Here are some simple steps that you can follow:

✦ If you find them in and around your potted plants, remove dead leaves, excess mulch, decaying stems, etc.

✦ Remove decomposed plant materials, dead leaves, etc., immediately after weeding or pruning. Don't leave them lying around in your garden or lawn, as these will decompose further and attract millipedes.

✦ At times, these pests can cause damage to soft fruits and berries that come in contact with the soil. So, it is advisable to pick these fruits before they become overripe. Placing plastic mulch under the plant can also help.

✦ In case of a severe infestation, you can repot the plant in a clean pot.
Eliminate Their Hiding Places
Keeping the area where pots are kept, as well as the garden dry and clean can help control an infestation. Here are some measures that you can take:

✦ Since millipedes prefer a damp environment, make sure that you discard water from the drip trays.

✦ It is advisable to remove excess mulch, so as to allow the soil to become dry.

✦ Refrain from excessive watering. Also, water the plants in the morning, so that the soil can become slightly dry by the afternoon.

✦ To control an infestation, you need to discard objects that might act as hiding spots for these arthropods. So, don't let leaf litter, trash, rocks, compost piles, etc., collect in your garden or anywhere around your houseplants. Move log piles away, and don't place firewood on the ground.

✦ Heavily mulched flower beds and thatched turfs are also good hiding places for these pests. So, remove the excess mulch and de-thatch the lawn for controlling an infestation.

✦ Millipedes can find a way into your home through cracks or crevices. To prevent them from entering your home, you need to vacuum the crevices. Do seal cracks or cervices in and around doors, windows, or the foundation.

✦ Since they thrive in moist places, using a dehumidifier might also help.
Application of Pesticides
In case of a severe infestation, wherein natural methods are not helping, you can consider applying pesticides. These can be applied along the edges of the pot and the area between the pot and tray. You can also apply a pesticide on mulched flower beds and thatched turf. However, make sure that you use a pesticide that is recommended for use against millipedes. Also, follow the instructions given by the manufacturer regarding the application of the pesticide. Dusts, granules, sprays, boric acid, wood ash, or Diatomaceous earth can be applied around cracks in the foundation or their breeding site. While wood ash has a drying effect, Diatomaceous earth's abrasive and absorbent nature dehydrates the millipedes, thereby causing them to die.
On a concluding note, the best way to control millipedes in the garden or indoor plants is to eliminate their food sources and create an uninhabitable environment for them. Application of pesticides is mostly avoided, as millipedes rarely cause extensive damage to plants. However, you can opt for pesticides if the natural methods are not providing a desirable outcome.