Millipedes and Centipedes

Millipedes are commonly known in Appling County, Wayne County, Jeff Davis County, Bacon County, Tatnall County, and Pierce County as “thousand leggers”. They are worm-like cylindrical animals with many body segments. Most of the body segments bear 2 pairs of legs. They range from 1/16″ – 4 1/2″ long. Centipedes have 100 legs.

Millipedes and Centipedes are not insects. They are actually more closely related to lobsters, crayfish and shrimp. However, unlike their marine cousins, millipedes and centipedes are land dwellers. They are most often found in moist habitats or areas with high humidity.

Millipedes and centipedes do not carry diseases that affect people, animals or plants. Millipedes do occasionally damage seedling plants by feeding on stems and leaves, and may enter homes in large numbers during periods of migration and become a considerable nuisance. They do not cause damage inside the home, although they may leave a stain if they are crushed. Centipedes, which have poison glands and can bite, pose an occasional threat to humans.

Millipedes are not poisonous, but many species have glands capable of producing irritating fluids that may cause allergic reactions in some individuals. The defensive sprays of some millipedes contain hydrochloric acid that can chemically burn the skin and cause long-term skin discoloration. The fluid can also be dangerous to the eyes. It is not advisable to handle millipedes with your bare hands. Persons handling millipedes may notice a lingering odor on their hands. After contact with millipedes, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water until the odor is gone. The solvents ether or alcohol will also help remove the noxious fluid.

 

Most centipede species feed on small creatures such as insects. They catch their prey with their powerful jaws and then kill it by injecting it with venom. Occasionally, humans may be bitten by centipedes, but the poison usually produces a moderate reaction similar to a bee sting. People who are allergic to insect venoms and other toxins may suffer severe reactions to centipede venom. Most centipede bites are uncomplicated and self liming. Treatment recommendations include washing the bite site with soap and water, applying ice or cool wet dressings and taking analgesics for pain.