Physical Characteristics

Adult millipedes can range anywhere from 1/16 to 4 1/2 inches in length. The three principal species found in California are the small brown common millipede (Diploiulus luscus), the bulb millipede (Nopoiulus minutus) and the greenhouse millipede (Orthomorpha gracilis). Millipede means “thousand legs,” but most millipedes only have 30 to 90 pairs of legs, with two pairs of legs connected to most body segments. Their heads have one pair of seven-segmented antennae. Unlike the flat-bodied centipede, the millipede’s body is cylindrical; think of it as a stretch-limo version of the pillbug (although millipedes are arthropods of the order Diplopoda, while pillbugs are land-dwelling crustaceans). Millipedes tend to be brown or black in color, although there are some red, orange or mottled species.



Millipedes are detritivores, which means that they subsist on nature’s equivalent of crumbs under the table – rotting leaves, decaying wood and other decomposing plant matter. They need an environment that’s moist. Millipedes don’t bite, but they will secrete a liquid benzoquinone that can irritate the skin or burn the eyes. (Capuchin monkeys in Venezuela have been observed rubbing themselves with millipedes, because the millipede’ secretions work as a natural mosquito repellent.) When disturbed, they curl up into a tight coil. When millipedes get inside your house, they’re there by mistake, and they will dry up and die pretty quickly.


Exclusion will keep millipedes out, if they are a problem. Block entry points with caulking, screening, steel wool or weatherstripping. Your Clark Pest Control technician should be able to assess your home and help you come up with a workable exclusion strategy for millipedes and other invaders. Outside, keep in mind that eliminating moist places where millipedes can thrive can help to keep them from turning into any kind of nuisance.

Latin name: Diploiulus luscus, Nopoiulus minutus, Orthomorpha gracilis