Although millipedes do not bite humans or do any damage, they can be a downright nuisance for homeowners.
For weeks, residents throughout Grand Cayman have had all they can take from the thousands of inch-long slow moving, brownish or blackish wormlike critters scaling house walls, climbing up sidewalks and even wriggling their way into baths, beds and kitchens.
They often curl up into a tight “C” shape, like a watch spring and remain motionless when touched. They range from 1/2 to 1-1/4 inches long depending on the species. They crawl slowly and protect themselves by means of glands that secrete an unpleasant odour.
“I found one in my bed this morning; disgusting, said homeowner Cecile Collins living on Easy Street in Bodden Town. “I don’t know why my home is attracting the majority of these critters on the lane but I am fed up. I tried sweeping them away but the little critters seem to be multiplying by the thousands. How they get in the house is beyond me. I have tried keeping all the windows and doors closed but still they find a way to get inside.”
Not only is Ms Collins experiencing a dilemma with the infestation, but other residents in the community are also wondering how they can get rid of the critters or make their homes less attractive to lessen the amount invading homes during the extremely warm wet season.
Agriculture Department Plants Protection Officer Joan Steer said they got their first complaint about the millipedes from residents in West Bay.
She said the worm infestation has only been known to Cayman in the past four years.
“Once a year we have an upsurge of the worms, we have not found out where they came from or how they got on the Island but usually they like moist areas because they are decomposers. They break down organic matter and anything to do with organic matter.”
A safe and environmental way to get rid of the critters is simply to just kick them out of the way or step and squash them, but some might find this a bit squeamish.
If you’re certain that you’re dealing with a millipede, there’s nothing to worry about. They move slowly and can’t hurt you, according to the Agriculture Department. Take a sheet of paper towel or broom and dust pan and just dump them outside. Once they have died they are good fertiliser for plants in the garden.
Don’t expect insecticides to stop all of the millipedes from entering the home. Insecticides will help reduce the number of millipedes but they will come back during the rainy season.
A number of pest control and exterminator services on island have been receiving calls about the millipedes. According to Truly Nolen they use a general repellant that is used for spraying roaches, scorpions and other insects.
To help with infestation, remove mulch and dead vegetation adjacent to the house. Outdoors, you may wish to treat a 10-15 foot strip around the house perimeter with an insecticide, seal windows and doors.
Life cycle and habits
Millipedes can be long-lived, sometimes up to seven years. They overwinter as adults and lay eggs singly or in small groups in the soil. Some females lay between 20 to 300 eggs (fertilization is internal), which hatch in a few weeks with the young reaching adulthood in the autumn. Some reach sexual maturity the second year, while others spend four to five years in the larval stage.