The good deeds of centipedes and millipedes usually outweigh their sins: They’ll take care of many soildwelling pests, while only occasionally snacking on plant parts and
Centipedes and millipedes are found throughout North America.
Centipedes are generally good predators of soil-dwelling pests, including slugs. They may also feed on earthworms, but overall, centipedes are considered to be beneficial. Millipedes feed primarily on decaying plant material, such as dead leaves, manure, or compost. They are beneficial in breaking down organic matter, but may occasionally feed on plant roots, germinating seeds, and seedlings. They may also chew on fruits that rest on the ground, such as strawberries and tomatoes.
Adults are slender, segmented creatures with many legs. Centipedes are 1 to 5 inches long, have fewer, longer legs (with only one set of legs per segment), and move quickly.
Millipedes are 1?2 to 11?2 inches long, move slowly, and have numerous short legs (two sets of legs per segment). Some millipedes curl up when disturbed. Centipedes have poisonous “claws” behind their head that they use to grab prey. Smaller species are usually harmless to people; larger species can inflict a painful bite.
Getting Them on Your Side
Preserve centipede and millipede populations in your garden by avoiding the use of pesticides. Control is generally not necessary unless populations are unusually high. But to sufficiently deter them:
` Allow the soil surface to dry out around seedlings.
` Sprinkle wood ashes, natural-grade diatomaceous earth, or cinders along rows of germinating seeds.
` Keep fruit off the ground with straw mulches.