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Millipedes In The Garden (What To Know & Do)

millipedes in the garden

Millipedes are interesting creatures that can often be found in gardens, contributing to the delicate balance of the ecosystem. While their appearance might startle some gardeners, understanding their role and managing their presence can help create a harmonious environment for both plants and these multi-legged arthropods.

To control millipedes in the garden, maintain moisture levels, remove debris, adjust watering practices, and create barriers for susceptible plants. Encourage natural predators and use diatomaceous earth. Monitor and handle populations carefully as their secretions may cause mild skin irritation. Consult experts for chemical control options if necessary.

This article describes the impact of millipedes in the garden and provides details on what you can do.

The Impact Of Millipedes In The Garden

Striped Millipede

Advantages

Millipedes thrive in moist environments, so gardens can be attractive habitats for them. They often inhabit the soil, leaf litter, and mulch layers. These creatures play a vital role in garden ecosystems. Millipedes are decomposers, breaking down organic matter like dead leaves, wood, and plant debris. As they feed on decaying material, they aid in the recycling process, releasing essential nutrients back into the soil. This natural composting action enriches the soil, promoting healthier plant growth.

Disadvantages

However, sometimes having too many millipedes in the garden can cause problems:

  • Hurt Young Plants: Millipedes might eat small plants and seeds, which can stop them from growing or even kill them.
  • Damage Fruits & Veggies: Millipedes may harm growing fruits and vegetables by nibbling on them. This can make the produce look bad and taste worse.
  • Messy Gardens: If there are too many millipedes, they can leave behind a lot of droppings and old skin, making your garden look untidy.
  • Too Much Water: Millipedes like damp places. If there are too many in your garden, they could add to an over-moisture issue, resulting in poor growing conditions.
  • Moving Of Mulch & Compost: Millipedes sometimes dig around in compost and mulch piles, which could mix things up too much and make room for weeds to grow.
  • Home Infestation: Millipedes can enter homes through gaps, cracks, and openings in doors, windows, walls, and foundations. They’re attracted to moisture and darkness, so places with high humidity like basements and crawl spaces are common entry points. They might also come in through vents, utility lines, or open doors if they’re close to the ground.

7 Strategies to Mange Millipedes in the Garden

White legged Snake Millipede
While millipedes are beneficial in many ways, an overabundance of them can sometimes be a nuisance. Here are some strategies for managing their presence:

  1. Maintain Proper Moisture Levels – Since millipedes prefer damp conditions, ensuring proper drainage and reducing excess moisture in the garden can discourage their rapid reproduction. Avoid over-watering plants and allowing excessive mulch buildup to prevent creating an ideal environment for millipedes.
  2. Remove Debris – Clear away excess leaf litter, wood piles, and other organic debris where millipedes might thrive. Make sure to remove any excess material around your home’s foundation as well. By minimizing their food sources, you can control their population.
  3. Use Barriers – Create physical barriers around plants that are particularly susceptible to millipede activity. These barriers can prevent millipedes from accessing young seedlings or delicate plants. Barriers can be made from various materials, including copper tape, plastic “collars,” or fabric wraps. The goal is to create a physical obstacle that millipedes find difficult to cross.
  4. Fshow Garden Cloche Plant Collars

    Fshow Garden Cloche Plant Collars

    Place these plant collars around the plant’s base, secure them in the soil, and periodically check their effectiveness at keeping pests. The collars are durable and reusable, ensuring long-term plant protection for healthier growth and better yields.

  5. Natural Predators – Encourage natural predators like birds, toads, and ground beetles that feed on millipedes. Use tactics such as adding birdhouses, rock piles or logs, bird baths, native plants, and reducing nighttime light sources for nocturnal creatures. These predators can help keep a millipede population in check.
  6. Use Diatomaceous Earth – Applying food-grade diatomaceous earth around plant beds can act as a natural barrier. This substance’s sharp particles and desiccating properties deter millipedes and other pests from crossing.
  7. Monitor & Tolerate – Keep a watchful eye on millipede populations and assess whether their numbers are causing significant damage. In most cases, their presence is beneficial and can be tolerated.
  8. Millipedes do not bite, but caution should be exercised when handling them in the garden. Unlike centipedes, which are known for their biting capabilities, millipedes lack venomous claws or pincers for biting. Instead, they rely on their defensive mechanisms, releasing chemicals to deter predators. While not dangerous, these secretions can sometimes cause mild skin irritation or allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Therefore, handling millipedes with care is advisable. Gardeners should avoid direct contact and wash hands afterward.
  9. Chemical Control – While chemical control is generally not recommended due to the potential harm it may cause to other beneficial insects, the environment, and your garden veggies, some mild pesticides can be used as a last resort. Consult with local gardening experts or extension services to identify safer options.

Conclusion

Millipedes in the garden are essential players in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Their role as decomposers contributes to nutrient cycling and soil enrichment. While excessive populations can sometimes be a concern, employing environmentally friendly strategies can help manage their presence effectively. These include encouraging natural predators like birds and toads, cultivating healthy soil, maintaining proper garden hygiene, and using barriers made from materials like copper or diatomaceous earth. By understanding and respecting these creatures, gardeners can create a thriving garden that supports both plants and its diverse life.

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