Greenhouse Millipedes and How to Control Them

 

One common issue that greenhouse gardeners face is dealing with pests of all varieties. One common pest, in particular, is the greenhouse millipede, also known as a garden millipede. In this article, I will provide you with valuable insights into greenhouse millipedes, their behavior, and effective control methods. By the end, you’ll have the knowledge to tackle millipede infestations and protect your plants.

 

Understanding Greenhouse Millipedes

 

Millipedes belong to the arthropod class Diplopoda and are often found in moist environments, including gardens and greenhouses. Greenhouse millipedes (Oxidus gracilis) are small, elongated arthropods with segmented bodies and numerous legs. They are considered an invasive species brought over from Asia. Although these bugs play a beneficial role in the ecosystem by decomposing organic matter, when their populations grow unchecked, they can cause damage to plants.

 

Identifying Greenhouse Millipedes

 

To effectively control these pests, it’s crucial to identify them correctly. These particular millipedes are typically brown or black with white legs. These millipedes also have side extensions from each of their segments called paranota. Their bodies consist of multiple segments. Each segment bears two pairs of legs, distinguishing them from centipedes, which have only one pair of legs per segment. Their elongated body shape, ranging from 0.75 to 1 inches, helps differentiate them from other pests.

 

Life Cycle 

 

Understanding the life cycle of garden millipedes can provide insights into their behavior and optimal control strategies. Millipedes undergo simple metamorphosis, meaning they go through three stages: egg, nymph, and adult. The eggs are laid in soil or decaying organic matter, where they hatch into nymphs. Nymphs resemble smaller versions of adults and gradually grow through molting until they reach maturity.

 

Common Habitats of Greenhouse Millipedes

 

Greenhouse millipedes prefer damp environments and are commonly found in soil, mulch, or decaying plant material. They are particularly attracted to greenhouses due to the consistent moisture levels and organic matter. Millipedes are nocturnal creatures, seeking shelter during the day and emerging at night to feed. They thrive in the temperature range of 70-80°F (21-27°C) and high humidity conditions.

 

Signs of  Millipede Infestation

 

Detecting signs of millipede infestation early is essential for effective control. Some common indicators of infestation include:

 

  1. Presence of millipedes in large numbers, especially during the night.
  2. Damaged seedlings or young plants, with leaves and stems showing irregular feeding patterns.
  3. Accumulation of millipede excrement (fecal pellets) near plant bases or in the soil.
  4. Chewed roots or stems, leading to stunted growth or plant death in severe cases.

 

Problems Caused by Greenhouse Millipedes

 

While millipedes are primarily decomposers, they can become pests when their populations grow uncontrolled. These millipedes feed on the roots, stems, and leaves of greenhouse plants, causing direct damage. The feeding activity can weaken plants, stunt their growth, and make them more susceptible to other diseases and pests. Moreover, millipedes can also trigger mold growth in damp greenhouse conditions.

 

Controlling Greenhouse Millipedes

 

When it comes to managing greenhouse millipedes, a multi-faceted approach is key. Here are several effective control methods you can employ:

 

1. Prevention Techniques

 

Preventing millipede infestations in the first place is crucial. Start by:

 

  • Regularly inspecting new plants and pots before introducing them to the greenhouse.
  • Ensuring good drainage to avoid excess moisture, as millipedes thrive in damp environments.
  • Removing decaying plant material and debris regularly to eliminate potential millipede habitats.
  • Applying a physical barrier, such as copper tape, around the base of potted plants to deter millipedes.

 

2. Natural Remedies for Greenhouse Millipedes

 

Several natural remedies can help control garden millipede infestations without resorting to chemical interventions:

 

  • Diatomaceous Earth: Sprinkle a thin layer of food-grade diatomaceous earth around the affected areas. The abrasive particles will damage the millipedes’ exoskeleton, causing them to dehydrate and die.
  • Beneficial Nematodes: Introduce predatory nematodes (Steinernema feltiae) to the soil. They actively seek out millipedes and other pests, providing natural control.
  • Beer Traps: Bury containers filled with beer to ground level. The scent will attract millipedes, causing them to fall into the trap and drown.

 

3. Chemical Control Options

 

In severe infestations, chemical control may be necessary. However, it’s important to use pesticides judiciously and follow the instructions carefully. Consider the following options:

 

  • Insecticidal Dust: Apply a dust formulation containing pyrethrin or carbaryl to targeted areas. This method is effective in controlling millipedes.
  • Baits: Use commercially available millipede baits that contain chemicals such as metaldehyde or carbaryl. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results.

 

4. Integrated Pest Management for Greenhouse Millipedes

 

Implementing an integrated pest management (IPM) approach can provide long-term millipede control. The IPM strategy combines various control methods, including cultural, physical, and biological techniques, to reduce millipede populations effectively. Regular monitoring, sanitation practices, and using natural predators are essential components of IPM.

 

5. Tips for Greenhouse Millipede Management

 

Consider the following tips to optimize your greenhouse millipede management efforts:

 

  • Maintain proper greenhouse ventilation to prevent excess humidity.
  • Regularly inspect and remove millipedes manually.
  • Minimize moisture levels by avoiding overwatering.
  • Use a barrier, such as crushed eggshells or copper wire, to protect vulnerable plants.
  • Rotate crops and avoid monoculture to disrupt millipede breeding patterns.

 

Conclusion

 

Greenhouse  or garden millipedes can be both fascinating and frustrating creatures in the world of greenhouse gardening. Understanding their behavior, identifying signs of infestation, and implementing effective control measures are crucial for maintaining healthy plants. By employing prevention techniques, natural remedies, and integrated pest management strategies, you can successfully manage millipede populations and protect your greenhouse garden.

 

FAQs

  1. Can greenhouse millipedes harm humans or pets?

Greenhouse millipedes are generally harmless to humans and pets. They do not bite, sting, or transmit diseases.

 

  1. Are greenhouse millipedes attracted to specific plant species?

While greenhouse millipedes can feed on a variety of plant species, they are particularly attracted to tender, young plants and seedlings.

 

  1. Are there any beneficial aspects of greenhouse millipedes?

Yes, greenhouse millipedes play a vital role in decomposing organic matter and recycling nutrients in the ecosystem. In moderate numbers, they can be beneficial for soil health.

 

  1. How long do greenhouse millipedes live?

They typically live for four to seven years, depending on environmental conditions and food availability.

 

  1. Can I use chemical pesticides as a first line of defense against greenhouse millipedes?

It is generally recommended to exhaust non-chemical control methods before resorting to chemical pesticides. Using pesticides should be a last resort and applied according to label instructions to minimize environmental impact.

 

Remember, understanding the biology and behavior of greenhouse millipedes is crucial to effectively control their populations. Implementing a proactive and integrated approach will help you maintain a thriving greenhouse garden free from millipede damage. Happy gardening!

Here are a couple of helpful sites about this millipede if you want to learn more:

https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/garden-millipede

https://maggiesfarmproducts.com/blogs/bug-help/control-garden-millipedes

https://bugguide.net/node/view/26414

 

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James Fedor

I want to share knowledge and tips to make you a greenhouse expert, so you can reap the rewards of being able to grow your own herbs, flowers , fruits, or vegetables for fun or profit.


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