Millipedes can certainly be fearsome-looking creatures. With their multiple segments, nearly countless legs, long wriggling bodies and sometimes intimidating exoskeletons, nearly everything about millipedes screams, “Danger!”
But how dangerous are they? Should you fear a millipede bite?
Do millipedes bite?
No. Millipedes are not typically aggressive, nor do they use venom to subdue prey. In fact, the vast majority of millipedes subsist on a vegetarian diet and are classified as detritivores. Millipedes feed on decaying plant matter such as dead leaves, mulch and compost. However, centipedes, which are sometimes confused with millipedes, can bite.
Can millipedes harm human beings at all?
Potentially. While millipedes are not known to transmit diseases or infest food, almost all millipedes are equipped with defensive mechanisms to keep predators such as birds at bay. If disturbed or threatened, millipedes will usually coil up until the danger has passed. However, millipedes can also activate glands that secrete or even spray a foul-smelling, acidic toxin. This substance can produce burning, irritation and allergic reactions in some individuals. Special care should be taken to keep this poison away from the eyes, mouth and nose. If you suspect you or a loved one may be having an adverse reaction to a millipede’s defensive fluid, be sure to consult a physician.
How can I tell a millipede from a centipede?
While you shouldn't fear millipedes, centipedes may present a threat. It's important to be able to tell the difference between these two similar-looking creatures.
Look for the following distinctions:
Whether you want to keep millipedes out of your home or are looking to eliminate centipedes, a Terminix® pest control specialist can work with you on a plan to combat these pests.