Millipedes are often called “thousand-leggers” because they have so many legs—two pairs per body segment. Most millipedes live outside in moist, cool areas such as leaf litter, mulch or compost piles or under wood or rocks. They eat damp, rotting organic matter like leaves.
On occasion, millipedes may wander into your house by mistake in the spring or fall, usually after heavy rains or periods of drought. However, they're not creatures to be feared.
Are millipedes poisonous? No. Millipedes are not poisonous. They don’t bite or sting. A millipede’s main defensive strategy is to curl up into a tight coil when disturbed. In fact, millipedes coil when dead as well.
Are millipedes harmful to your health? Millipedes don’t transmit disease, so they aren’t a threat to your family’s health. Although there are no poisonous millipedes, millipedes do have defensive glands that produce a smelly fluid when the millipede is attacked. This defensive fluid can be irritating, especially if it gets in your eyes. Some people may have an allergic reaction to it. Some millipedes’ defensive sprays contain hydrochloric acid that can burn or discolor your skin and hurt your eyes.
To avoid these risks, do not pick up a millipede with your bare hands. After you handle a millipede, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water until any odor or residue is gone.
Because millipedes aren’t poisonous, they are more of a nuisance than a danger to your family.