Despite their name and nickname “thousand-leggers,” millipedes usually only have 30 to 90 pairs of legs. Regardless, millipedes are creepy critters with many body segments and pairs of legs. Most millipede species in North America are a brown color.
Millipedes are often mistaken for centipedes, which pose dangers of their own. Keep reading to learn more about whether millipedes are dangerous to humans and pets and the differences between centipedes and millipedes.
In this guide, we’ll cover the following topics:
- Are Millipedes Dangerous to Humans?
- Are Millipedes Dangerous to Any Pets?
- Are Millipedes Poisonous?
- Do Millipedes Sting or Bite?
- Do Millipedes Pose Any Health Risk?
Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!
Table Of Contents
Are Millipedes Dangerous to Humans?
Unlike centipedes, millipedes are not venomous. Some species of millipedes do release a defensive fluid from glands on the sides of their body. If touched, these fluids can cause some irritation for humans. Often, this occurs after someone has accidentally crushed a millipede or come across a surface where a millipede was recently crushed.
These defensive fluids are smelly and can be unpleasant when released in our homes, so it’s recommended that you use protective gloves when handling a millipede and thoroughly wash down an area where these defensive fluids were released. If you don’t wear gloves, your hands may end up smelling terribly from these fluids. Some people may even experience skin irritation or burning. Never touch your eyes after handling a millipede or cleaning an area where a millipede was because these defensive fluids can cause painful irritation to your eyes.
It is important to note that many people mistake centipedes and millipedes for each other due to their similar segmented body structure and many pairs of legs. As a result, it’s crucial that you identify if you have a centipede or millipede in your home because, unlike millipedes, centipedes are dangerous to humans and can cause adverse reactions through their intensely painful bites. Many people are also allergic to centipede bites and can have a severe allergic reaction, resulting in anaphylactic shock.
Before handling millipedes, look for these differences between millipedes and centipedes:
- Millipedes have two pairs of legs per body segment, compared to centipedes, who only have one pair of legs per body segment.
- Centipede legs are usually longer and point away from their bodies, while millipede legs point towards the ground.
- Centipedes are more likely to run away from you if you startle them, while millipedes will typically curl into a tight, protective ball.
- Centipedes eat small insects and other arthropods, like spiders and scorpions. Millipedes primarily eat decaying plants or organic matter.
Are Millipedes Dangerous to Any Pets?
Possibly. Millipedes are a relatively low health risk to pets, but their defensive fluids can be toxic if consumed. For small animals especially, these fluids can be harmful. Some animals may also have an allergic reaction, which can be dangerous. If your pet comes into contact with a millipede, it’s recommended that you carefully monitor them and contact your veterinarian with any questions or concerns.
If you spot millipedes in your home, immediately take steps to make your home a less desirable habitat for these creepy crawlers. Millipedes need plenty of moisture, so running a dehumidifier is a great step to reduce moisture in your home’s air.
Here are other millipede pest control steps you can take to reduce your pet’s risk of finding a millipede or having a millipede infestation on your property:
- Regularly trim your grass and mow your lawn to keep the grass from retaining excess moisture
- Water your lawns and plants early in the day so that they can dry during the day
- Get rid of grass clippings, leaf piles, and mulch
- Keep firewood off the ground
- Kill weeds and remove dead plants from your yard immediately
- Seal off entry points with a caulking product or sealant
- Apply a chemical pesticide to fight against millipedes (basements, baseboards, crawl spaces, and bathrooms are popular locations for millipedes to hang out)
- Remove millipedes in your home with a vacuum cleaner or broom
- Prune your trees regularly and rake leaves up quickly to prevent millipedes from using these as a food source
- Install door sweeps to prevent millipedes from entering
We also recommend being on high alert after heavy rain because millipedes have been reported to migrate after floods or heavy rain has disrupted their habitat. Millipedes sometimes migrate during the fall to prepare for the winter, so you may notice a difference in how many millipedes are around during this time.
As a whole, millipedes are considered mostly beneficial household pests because they eat decaying plant matter and keep the environment cleaner as a result.
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Are Millipedes Poisonous?
Millipedes are not poisonous or venomous animals. Unlike centipedes, they do not bite or sting. However, some species of millipedes do release a toxin to scare predators away. Larger millipede species can even spray these up to 32 inches away. Some humans may experience allergic reactions if they come into contact with this toxin. If you believe you have come into contact with millipede defensive fluids, we recommend contacting your local poison control center or consulting with your doctor.
As a whole, millipedes are considered mostly beneficial household pests because they eat decaying plant matter and keep the environment cleaner as a result. However, their fluids can be irritating to humans and dangerous to pets, so you should consider this when deciding what your next steps are.
Do Millipedes Sting or Bite?
Unlike centipedes, millipedes do not sting or bite. They typically release a defensive fluid from their bodies and curl into a tight ball when they feel threatened. However, they are not known to bite or sting.
Do Millipedes Pose Any Health Risk?
As a whole, millipedes present a minimal health risk. At worst, their defensive fluids can be irritating and may cause an allergic reaction or blisters in some people. However, millipedes do not bite or sting, making them a relatively harmless pest. Still, if you have pets or small children, we recommend preventing moisture accumulation to decrease your chances of millipedes coming inside. In addition, keep up with landscaping your home and garden because millipedes are attracted to flower beds, grass clippings, overgrown lawns, and firewood.
Millipedes are not a dangerous pest, but they can cause irritation and make your home smell unpleasant with their pungent defensive fluids. Not only this, but it can be startling to stumble onto a millipede in the middle of the night. Millipedes will frequently travel in groups, so if you spot one on your property, there are likely many more around your home. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your local pest control professional for help with your pest problems. Millipede control is an essential step in preventing a significant infestation, so don’t wait — contact your exterminator today.