White Millipedes in House Plants

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So I decided to write this article because when I was checking my analytics the other day I realised one of my pages was ranking quite high for millipedes (despite not mentioning them). I may as well write the article if no one else is!

The only issue is that I’ve not actually experienced milipedes in my house plants. This would require research.

And then I remembered that whilst I’ve never had the little white milipedes in our soil, we had a pet milipede that lives in our terrarium. Called Millie (the frog is called Anthony Hopkins – my boyfriend named both).

She’s amazing!

She’s not harmful, but she did occasionally have a wee chomp on a leaf. Who wouldn’t?

She was freaking HUGE though, and only took little chomps. For a taste. The little ones are more after your fungus, and won’t stray too far from the soil.

Are millipedes bad for potted plants?

Millipedes are a good bug! They do a lot of heavy lifting in the fungus-eating department, which is a great thing, because if they eat all the fungus then there’s none left for the fungus gnats.

As well as eating rotting matter, millipedes also provide aeration to your soil.

HOWEVER

A little bit like mushrooms in your soil, millipedes can be a sign that your soil is staying too damp for too long. Check your plants for signs of overwatering, and if you’re happy that your plants are happy, then leave the millipedes be.

Millipedes don’t pose a risk to humans – unlike centipedes they’re not venomous and they don’t bite. They do er, poo on you if they’re scared, and it can irritate your skin.

There are rumours that millipedes eat plant roots, but it’s not something we had a problem with. This would only happen if the millipede were starving, and a healthy one would move on to alternative accommodation before it got that far.

Where do millipedes in house plants come from?

Well, we bought ours, which seems ridiculous because you can get the smaller ones for free, and they just…show up. Millipedes are attracted to cool, moist, dark places, and your plants are providing that PLUS there’s a buffet for them.

If you don’t want millipedes, move your plants that tend to attract them to warmer, brighter spots. You also might want to consider adding something into your soil mix to keep it more aerated (and therefore drier). I’d recommend perlite for this specific case, because orchid bark rots over time and attracts millipedes.

How to get rid of millipedes in house plants

To be honest, I wouldn’t. They’re aerating your soil and helping to get rid of decaying matter.

If you really can’t bear to have them in your house, then the best way to get rid of them is to manually pick them out – they’re a bit like slugs in their tenacity (and ability to sneak in anyway and lay eggs before anyone realises they’re there), so don’t be surprised if you can’t get rid of them permanently.

They’re nocturnal, so you might have more luck if you crack out a head torch and remove them at night.

Put them outside when you remove them – don’t kill them, you meanie.

Also like slugs, the chemical treatments you can use to get rid of millipedes are HARSH and you’ll end up damaging your plants. You can try bug sprays if you like, but if you’re providing a nice environment for them, they’re going to keep coming back.

A lot of people swear by diatomaceous earth, which works well IF you use it properly. The problem, in this case, is that diatomaceous earth only works if it’s bone dry, and if your plant was dry enough for DE to work, you probably wouldn’t have millipedes in the first place.

If you’re a seasoned pro at using DE, then go for it, but it’s one of those things that takes a bit of practice to use effectively.

Can you keep millipedes in terrariums?

Yes, but also definitely no.

Milipedes are an awesome additional to a terrarium, because they’re great at eating rotting plants and aerating the soil. As long as you provide them with a nice deep substrate (they bury themselves to shed their skin), and keep the terrarium warm and moist, they’re a nice addition.

But they get out.

And we couldn’t find any escape route. She’s a big millipede as well! I don’t think she tries to get out. When we find her on the kitchen floor every couple of months she’s as surprised as anyone (our rabbit did NOT like it when she turned up in her cardboard box).

So yeah, a great addition to a terrarium, but an even greater escape artist*.

*This is true of all of our terrarium fauna. Frog, geckos, and millipede alike treat it like a freaking bed and breakfast.

Final thoughts

I get that people are creeped out by millipedes, but in my view, if your soil is rich enough to support a little ecosystem, that’s a great thing. The fact that they aerate the soil is great – they might be the one thing standing between you and root rot.

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