A Guide to Managing Black Portuguese Millipedes

millipedes

The black Portuguese millipede, Ommatoiulus moreleti, is a native of Portugal and was accidentally introduced to Australia, first appearing in South Australia in 1953. They have since invaded all the southern mainland states.

They are attracted to light and will enter buildings at night, although once inside they do not breed and will eventually die.

While there is no evidence they affect human health, they can occur in plague numbers, and can contaminate food and infest carpet and bedding.

Portuguese millipedes are herbivorous, which means in plague proportions they may also destroy seedlings and fruit and vegetable crops.

When disturbed a millipede may release a pungent and distasteful yellowish secretion which discourages predators, such as birds. Note: the secretion may stain skin or clothes and is extremely irritating if rubbed into the eyes. However as it is composed of organic chemicals called quinones, it quickly breaks down in water.

Mature black Portuguese millipedes are smooth and cylindrical, 20-45 mm long and slate-grey to black in colour. Juveniles are light brown and striped. Juveniles hatch from eggs in the soil and reach maturity in two years.

During hot dry weather they will hide in the soil, however rain in spring and particularly in autumn will stimulate activity and breeding.


What can be done?


Lighting

Portuguese millipedes are attracted to light. If you are able to do so, turn off any external lights which are close to your house or other buildings and minimise any escape of light by closing curtains and blinds. Use weather-strips on doors as good door seals will also help prevent entry into the home.

Compost/Mulch

While compost is good for gardens, it also allows higher populations of millipedes to breed. If you can, reduce the area covered by organic matter such as compost, leaf litter and mulch as it decreases a source of food and shelter. Don’t forget your gutters.

Natural predators

While some spiders, beetles and scorpions will eat millipedes, they will not significantly reduce numbers.

Physical barriers

A smooth vertical or rounded barrier can stop millipedes from entering buildings as they are unable to gain a foothold. The barriers can be fixed to walls, below doorsteps, window ledges and vent bricks (make sure you keep them clean and free of vegetation). A barrier must be continuous with no breaks (unless placed under doorways).

Plate glass, 7.5 cm wide and 4.5 mm thick, can also be fitted around the base of a house.

Chemical control

Chemical barriers can be applied to kill the millipedes before they are able to enter your house. Note: Pesticides usually have a limited active life and must be re-applied for ongoing control.

Appropriate chemicals can also be applied to outside walls, paths or garden beds and other areas where millipedes may breed.

Chemicals registered for use against millipedes are available from your local supermarket or hardware store.

Note: Chemicals must always be used in accordance with the instructions on the label.

Light-traps

Method 1 – A simple light trap can be made with a piece of PVC stormwater pipe or a box with holes in it. Place it at ground level near a low voltage garden light or weather-proof fluorescent light to attract the millipedes at night. If you can, place the trap along an outside wall near where the millipedes are entering.

The pipe or floor of the box is then treated with an appropriate insecticide to kill the millipedes after they enter.

Method 2 – A container with smooth and vertical sides i.e. a yoghurt tub is buried flush with the ground away from the house. Place a low voltage garden light or weather-proof light above or as close to the container as possible. As the millipedes are attracted to the light they will fall into the container and not be able to climb out.

Note: You may need to check the traps daily, depending on numbers.

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236 comments on “A Guide to Managing Black Portuguese Millipedes

  1. For those looking for a more natural method. I have a neighbour who said ordinary, cheap, nasty talcum powder (not good stuff) gets rid of them. Now I haven’t actually tried it, but could be worth a try.

  2. Thanks Tracy i will try the talcm powder.at home

    In the meantime, does anyone know which chemicals are best as talcum powder wont look to good in our office

  3. Can anyone help with my problem? While I’m lucky not to have these little fella’s in anything like the numbers I’ve been reading about . . . they love my outdoor spa! It’s in an enclosed space, with glass sliding doors, below ground, covered with the blue bubble cover . . . and in the morning, there can be hundreds curled up dead in the water!
    There’s no light on at night, I’ve been out at night and can’t see any sign of them on the brick walls or tiled floor making their way in – but come morning when I lift up the cover – there they are, waiting to be fished out!

    Touch wood . . . I’ve only be getting the occassional one inside, but will be getting some ant dust this weekend I think. Don’t particularly want ant dust/snail pellets ending up in the spa though.
    Any solutions? Many thanks. :-)

  4. We must have them in the ceiling as they are coming out the light fittings as we have insulation in the roof does anyone have an answer to that?

  5. Scatter the area around the house with blue Bayer brand snail pellets millipedes are listed as one of the pests it kills and it does work I ended up with what appears to be a millipede mulch,I also sprayed around windows and doors with surface spray whic also got a lot of them

  6. I purchased a product at Bunnings that was for millipedes. It was like crystals and you sprinkled it wherever they were ie in damp places.

  7. A couple of years ago I was really fed up with all the millipedes I was getting, so I gave the light trap a go. I suspended a low watt light underneath the verandah, about 6 inches off the ground, put a bowl with sloping sides full of water underneath it and left it on all night. The following morning I just swept them all up and put them in a bag, sprinkled them with ant and wasp dust (available at Bunnings) tied the bag and put them in the bin. I collected over 20 kilograms in about 6 weeks. Since then I have rarely had any near the house. Must have lured them all in. If they start coming back I will do this again.

  8. I found a few in my bathroom which is joined to my bedroom(ensuite) and now I am starting to find them in the bedroom and just found one in my sons bed crawling next to him which scares me worried for my baby. Please help what can I do?

  9. Hi Elizabeth,
    Millipedes are not toxic and they won’t harm your baby. They are actually considered beneficial arthropods by entomologists as they help break down organic matter and improve the soil.
    We find them pests in Australia as they are introduced and breed profusely. There are a few ways to control them and I got a few tips from this website: http://www.getridofthings.com/pests/bugs/get-rid-of-millipedes/

    Suggestions from the website:
    Poisons. Refer to the site for a run down on these, I think the site is American so you may not find the exact products in Oz, but other products with the same active ingredients are.

    Diatomaceous earth. This natural wonder works very well for killing centipedes. Diatomaceous earth is made up of thousands of little fossilized diatoms that just happen to be extremely sharp. When a millipede wanders through the stuff, it is inflicted with numerous little cuts that cause it to dehydrate and die.

    Boric acid. This weak acid is derived from the mineral borate. It is in powder form and can be used for filling cracks and crevices where millipedes might wander. Boric acid sticks to their legs and bodies and acts as a dessicant (like diatomaceous earth) and as a stomach poison.

    Chickens. These birds are great biological control for millipedes as well as a wide variety of other pests. Chickens are voracious eaters and spend most of their day wandering around looking for little moving critters that they can eat. To top it all off, they’re pretty darn cute.

    Wood ash. This is a very simple millipede deterrent. Mix wood ash into soil to help dry it out. Concentrate on the soil that is right next to the foundation of your home. This works because millipedes like to live and lay eggs in moist soil. For added effectiveness, use a rake or hoe to roughen the soil so that it dries faster.

    You can also inflict biological warfare on them using nematodes available from http://www.bugcentral.com.au/products/millipede_control.php – the down side is that it is a little expensive and labour intensive to start.

    Good luck,
    Mike

  10. I am successfully keeping these pests out of my home (well almost) but when they die on my path which is cream 400 x 400 sealed slabs they ooze a blackish liquid that stains and up to now is impossible to remove with household cleaners. Any suggestions for removing the stains would be most welcome.

  11. Hey Paul.
    Buy yourself a Karcher pressure cleaner, they’re pretty cheap these days from Bunnings etc etc.
    Hit the stains with some household detergent and let it soak for a few minutes. This breaks down the oils and greases that the dead ‘pedes leave behind. Fire up your Karcher and give the black spots a blast of high pressure water and the marks will be gone in less than a second.

  12. Just fill a spray bottle with chlorine, bleach may do it. Spray the stain and it will go. You should never use an acid or pressure sprays on pavers it damages the surface of the paver..

  13. Many thanks for your responses, Ken & Jane. I did try bleach and a pressure cleaner on a test area, previous to my post, but to no avail; I am now sourcing some chlorine. Thanks again. Paul

  14. Paul also try gumption which is sold in Coles. cheap as chips but works a treat inside and out on light coloured surfaces
    yellow lid and white container hidden usually on the bottom shelf in the cleaning section

  15. Thanks Ana. I’ll put gumption on the shopping list. I am aware of the product having used it many years ago on swimming pool tiles.

    Thanks again.

  16. To Esky, simply spray a low irritant surface spray along the floors and a short way up the door sill of the office.

  17. We have heaps of these nasty little critturs here at Cheshunt VIC. They are getting into everything, In the linen cupboard, kids rooms, our room and bed. I am not sure about them not being toxic to humans as we have just moved here from Melbourne and have had terrible rashes that itch so badly if scratched, we have been to the Dr who didn’t know what it was, its not bedbugs etc or other yukkies either. Even asked the pharmacist and they didn’t know what it was either. It is quite noticeable that as the millipede invasion is lessening with the colder weather that our “itches are lessening too. It is mainly hubby and I that have them, the kids have only a few. I would be interested to hear if anyone else has had the allergic reaction to them that we have. Thank you to all the posts re help to eradicate them.

  18. I have commented before on here as we have had terrible problems with millipedes to the point where i considered selling our home, but that just gives the problem to someone else. Honestly…every day i would sweep up literally millions of them, 2 full 4 litre buckets a day easily. We purchased nematodes about 18 months/2 years ago and implanted them in our garden. Along with using the Baysol snail pellets i can honestly say there has been a dramatic downturn in how many we have had…..I guess may i have swept up i bucket full in maybe 6 months, a little different to 2 a day! Sure we still get the odd few but i can handle them! The rains may bring a few when they arrive but i will be straight in with the snail pellets and hoping the nematodes are still doing their job. Please be careful with what sprays you use, Believe me, i have tried them all, including relatively “harmless” surface sprays. I noticed i would get headaches and feel a bit off after we used them and now i wont have them around my home. There is a light at the end of the tunnel trust me…..coming from someone that was reduced to tears by these little critters that is not bad!

  19. Bunnings sell a cheap ant powder which works well, and also Coopex is a residual insecticide which works really well. We live in Dawesville and have millipedes in plague proportions. Have stopped trying to grow winter vegies as the millipedes just strip the seedlings. Thousands on the paths after every rainfall. We even sealed up all the window frame drain holes to stop them coming in the house, but they still get inside. Bad thing about spraying is that we are killing good bugs as well, so we are gonna try the nemotodes this year.

  20. I have recently moved into a rental property , the property is set in the bush and I’m surrounded by trees and leaf litter. Every night before I’m about to go to bed I have to pick off almost 50-100 millipede’s off my ceiling in several rooms. The house ceilings are built of wood paneling that are full of small gaps every where , and millipede’s are coming out of them constantly. I think there might be a infestation in the roof but I’m an unsure of this because I have not looked in the roof yet. Has any one had any similar experiences ? Please help , I am already thinking about moving due to the constant invasion of millipedes and the paranoia I get from it.

  21. Cant say enough about this but I will say it again…Baysol snail pellets will knock these guys out. We used them on our lawn and literally killed millions within 48 hours….the lawn actually looked black! We have dogs too…but if you sprinkle them in sparingly when your grass is longer usually the dog doesn’t even know they are there. They are dog repellent too. Don’t use the sprays that ppl are talking about…they are poison to you and your pets….yes…even Coopex! Sprinkle these in your ceiling…the millipedes love them! But be warned….they will smell for a few days after they have died!

  22. Agree 100% Jen, Baysol pellets is the most effective and easiest treatment. Having put up with them getting worse each winter, I am down to the odd few overnight from millions inside and outside. Life is so much better without them. :-)

  23. Jane..Yes…i tell everyone to use them. As I stated previously…we did implant nematodes too as we are on 5 acres, so we are wondering if they have kicked in too after 2 seasons. But yes…we had millions and they were so depressing facing them every day, to the point of tears! Now, we still get a few, but we hardly notice them now! A complete turnaround!

  24. Unfortunately nematodes don’t work on broad acreages; only small domestic blocks. We spent a great deal of money on nematodes over 2 years only to find out they aren’t suitable to large areas.

  25. Sarah we only introduced nematodes only around our immediate home on our 5 acres. In the instructions it says to do this. We did this twice. It would be impossible and expensive to do the whole 5 acres for sure. I think they have worked around our place.

  26. I am in East Gippsland in Victoria, and whist I have no problem with millipedes eating my plants or coming inside, they have eaten the paint off my paling fences !! I recently painted them with Accent Fence Paint [Ironbark colour], and they come out in the night, and are eating the paint. We have observed them doing it ! .Can anyone help me ??
    It has been suggested that I should repaint the fences with exterior paint [instead of fence paint], but I want to be sure that they wont eat that too. I have asked numerous painters and even contacted a paint company help line, but to no success.

  27. Hi Gaylene, I live in East Gippsland also & have had a major problem with these disgusting creatures…..I use Coopex, I mix the Coopex in a spray backpack & attack the grounds surrounding the entry points to my home, it works, so I suggest you spray the fence posts & approx a metre surrounding the fence, they will die before they reach the fence to cause any damage, those that sneak through your mine field will get caught when they try to attack the fence. It may take a couple of attempts to get everything under control, I’ve been spraying every three / 4 months for the past 2 years & I’m winning the battle at last, they lay dormant in the soil while the weather is dry, dampness & lights attract them hence they are more of a problem in Autumn & Winter. Coopex can be purchased at Dalsens & Bunnings locally. good Luck

  28. I live on acreage in Mandurah. I use Ant Killer in powdered form. Spread a line around your house tight up to the perimeter. Kills the millipedes before they can get up the wall or into the house. First time I had thousands of dead millipedes on my pavers, swept these up and each day the numbers got less and less until very few now. It looks like they ingest it more readily than snail pellets, probably because it is finer or maybe because they have no option than to crawl through it. No need to spread it too thickly. We have pets and these are not effected as the poison is tight to the wall where they don’t get to.

  29. Hi all I’m from Adelaide SA! So my issue with these little creatures is my bath tub. I have tried washing them down the drain, squishing them and even flushing them. BUT every single night/morning I have found at least one in the tub again! I have an 18 month old who I don’t want discovering one but also want to get rid of them and the tub be safe for her. Any help or tips? Cheers guys!

    Oh and even scrubbing and cleaning the tub again and again doesn’t help to deter them

  30. We live in the Southern part of USA, This year, we are experiencing an infestation that came on suddenly probably due to heavy rain last spring. Ive spent a lot of time sealing up cracks, cutting down shrubbery and any hiding spots to no avail. Not to mention the tons of dollars spent on pesticides, granuals etc. Im not sure what I am doing wrong. Can any one recommend any products (sold in US) that really work

  31. Here in Australia I have had huge success with a product, called Baysol snail killer, little blue pellets that I just scatter around my garden beds, the active ingredient is Methiocarb. I would suggest you look in your local hardware shop for a similar product, containing methiocarb. Assuming it is marketed under the same name in the US. Good luck, they are a total pain.

  32. Hi we have a big problem with millipedes. They have munched through most of my spring seedlings. Does anyone know if the yeast trick works on millipedes. I tried some the other night and they definetly ate it but I didnt see lots of dead bodies? I think they may also be eating remnants of bird seed? Where do you get nematodes?

  33. I cant stress this enough…the Baysol snail pellets (orange and blue box from Bunnings) stop them dead! Sprinkle them around and you will definitely see dead bodies! We put them on our lawn and our lawn turned black overnight with dead millipedes. We used nematodes…I cant remember the name of the guy but in South Australia I think…he posts them to you in gel. Just google and the details should come up. Not sure if they worked or it was the Baysol to be honest….but he tells you to use Baysol around the house as well. We have gone from nearly selling our house to just an ice cream container full per year now. Good luck…

  34. Hi, we have lots of these millipedes and every morning the pool is full of dead ones. The ph is all out of balance and we think the toxic secretion from the millipede is affecting the water quality. Has anyone else had this problem?

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