Small Common Millipedes

Out of all the different species of millipede, the Common Millipede is the one most people are probably familiar with. You may have even seen this type of small millipede in your own house, apartment, garage, or basement.

A small millipede walking across a surface.

The Giant Millipedes that this site is dedicated to are certainly far more conspicuous if you happen to run across one, but they are elusive creatures. Even if you live in the same geographic areas that they’re found in, most people probably won’t ever see one in the wild, unless they actually go looking for them.

The Common Millipede on the other hand is something that most people have probably seen, whether in your garden, in your home, or just outside in nature. They are very small compared to their giant cousins. These small Common Millipedes are rarely more than an inch long. They are generally black or dark brown in color, and their bodies are composed of many tiny round segments.

You might consider these tiny millipedes to be pests, but rest assured that they are harmless (although understandably annoying if they are freely roaming around inside your house).

Are Millipedes Poisonous or Venomous?

Millipedes are not poisonous and they aren’t venomous either. They also won’t bite or sting you. They also are not poisonous to dogs or cats. It would be easy to lump them in with centipedes (who do bite), but the comparison is unwarranted. Centipedes and millipedes may seem similar at first glance, but they are very different creatures. While centipedes can certainly be dangerous, millipedes on the other hand are essentially harmless.

If threatened, most millipedes will simply curl up in a ball for defense but many species can also secrete a defensive substance to protect themselves from predators. This substance is not toxic though. Some people do seem to be allergic to it however, so it’s possible you (or your pets) could have an allergic reaction to it if it gets on your skin (or if your pet eats the millipedes). In general though, it’s probably not a cause for concern.

Do Millipedes Cause Damage to Houses?

No, millipedes won’t cause any damage to your home or your property. They aren’t like termites or carpenter ants, and won’t start burrowing into your home’s wood. They also won’t harm your houseplants or vegetable garden.

Many species of millipede do feed partially on rotting wood, so it’s theoretically possible that if you have a serious rot problem with the wood of your house that millipedes might start munching on it. If the wood in your house has deteriorated to that condition though, then millipedes would likely be the least of your concerns.

Controlling Millipedes in your House

If you have small millipedes in your house, and you want to keep them out, your best course of action is to inspect your windows and doors to make sure there aren’t any cracks, holes, and gaps around the edges that they could squeeze through. You should also check your window screens to make sure they are free of tears and rips.

It would also be a good idea to inspect the outside of your house for any holes, crevices or other entry points as well. Check for any rotted wood or cracks in the exterior walls that could allow millipedes (or other bugs) so slip through, especially if you are living in an older house.

If you find millipedes in house plants and want to get rid of them, you may need to replace the soil completely to ensure they’re all gone (and haven’t laid eggs), but unless the problem is really bad this might not be necessary.

If you’re thinking about spraying insecticide poison around your home to keep tiny millipedes out, this probably won’t be a very effective straregy. It may have some benefit in the short term, but these creatures are almost certainly coming from outside, not from inside your home, so millipede insecticide won’t be a long-term solution. They are known to travel considerable distances and will migrate from outside into your home if given the opportunity, such as through gaps around windows, or simply from leaving the door open in the summer.

You can take comfort in the fact that any millipedes that do make it into your house probably won’t last very long though. Most species of millipede need relatively humid conditions, and so will most likely die from drying out once inside your house for a while.

Garden and Greenhouse Millipedes

The Greenhouse Millipede (scientific name Oxidus gracilis) is a different species from the Common Millipede. They’re about the same length, but their bodies have a much more pronounced segmented look to them than the simpler looking Common House Millipede. This species actually isn’t native to the US, but was accidentally introduced from Asia, likely on potted plants or mulch.

A small greenhouse millipede
Image by João Coelho CC BY 2.0

Like the Common Millipede, this species is not dangerous or poisonous. It also doesn’t pose any danger to homes, property, or plants. Like all millipedes, it only feeds on decaying plant matter. If you find them in your garden or greenhouse, they will happily eat discarded leaves or fallen, rotting veggies, but they will leave any living, healthy plants and vegetables alone.

If you have a particularly bad infestation of these tiny arthropods, bug spray still probably won’t be very effective. If the problem is in a greenhouse, then your best option for controlling the millipedes will likely be to follow the same general plan as for problems in the house (though this might be difficult since most greenhouses aren’t made to be as sealed off as the average house). Check for any obvious gaps, holes, or cracks in the greenhouse that would allow the millipedes to crawl in, and if you find any, seal them up.

Can You Keep a Pet Millipede?

If you wanted to keep a small millipede as a pet you certainly can! They would be an extremely easy to care for, undemanding pet that you could keep in a small space. They could be especially good for kids who like bugs.

Are you the parent of a kid who is really interested in bugs, insects, or arachnids and wants one as a pet? If you are personally too creeped out by bugs to allow your kid to keep one for a pet, then a millipede might be a great option! Millipedes are harmless, very slow moving, and don’t seem to provoke the same fear or “gross out” response that other types of bugs do in many people. In fact, some people even find them kind of cute!

There are actually plenty of people throughout the world who have pet millipedes. Usually though, they keep various species of Giant Millipedes as pets, rather than the small common house or garden types.

No matter what kind of millipede you would like to keep as a pet though, they are sure to be fascinating to observe and care for. Just make sure you set them up with a suitable home of their own!