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ubersiren's avatar

What are these tiny beige millipedes in my ficus soil?

Asked by ubersiren (15031 points ) June 19th, 2009

All the ones I’ve seen are dead and laying on top of the soil, but I haven’t done much digging. Minimal contact (even visual) would be best. I used potted soil that I bought at Wal-Mart. Did they come in the bag, or did they get in from my house? Are they harmful? I mean, they don’t seem to have caused any harm yet, and it’s been a few months. Should I replace all the soil, or just scoop out the top layer of dead bodies and put new on top? Blarf.

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10 Answers

MrGV's avatar

Millipedes and Centipedes enjoy moist areas and it’s the season for millipedes/centipedes infestation. I kill about 100+ Centipedes a day now since they took over my garage and living room.

syz's avatar

More than you ever wanted to know about millipedes

bonus's avatar

Post a link to a photo, please.

MissAusten's avatar

If they are tiny and beige, they might not be millipedes. They might be the larval form of an insect, like some kind of beetle, weevil, or who knows. Can you tell how many legs they have? It’s hard to be certain what you have, and what you should do, without a photo.

MissAusten's avatar

They look more like centipedes to me, but I’m not really sure. The eggs were probably in the soil. If they are centipedes (or even millipedes), they are harmless. Scoop them up and toss them outside and replace the soil as needed.

From looking at the legs, I don’t think you have any kind of insect larva. Usually they have six legs, plus maybe some little fake legs (sorry, can’t think of the right name for those things). I could be wrong though, and you’d want to make sure you aren’t dealing with something that could harm your plants.

Try submitting your photo to Bug Guide. It’s free to join and pretty simple to do. They’ve never let me down when I’ve wanted something identified. You could also browse their images to find out what you have. Another good site to try is www.whatsthatbug.com.

bonus's avatar

@MissAusten your Bug Guide link is looping back to this one…

MissAusten's avatar

Oh geez—I don’t how I did that. It’s www.bugguide.net. Sorry!

ubersiren's avatar

Ok, in the only similar story I found, the plant owner just scooped out half the dirt and replaced it, so I did the same thing. We’ll see what happens. It doesn’t seem to be hurting the plant, so I guess I’ll just repeat as necessary. It’s just weird that the only ones I’ve seen are dead. Even as I dug down, there were no live ones. Even when I first discovered them a few months back, they were dead.

Thanks for your help, @MissAusten and @syz!

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

They are most likely young centipedes, because I’ve had them in my potted plants before. They most likely were in the pot (when you bought it at Wal-Mart) before you re-potted your plant, not from the bag of soil you bought. Almost all houseplants that you buy at garden centres or department stores come from tree farms in warmer areas of the country. There, insects often are indigenous to the soil, and they were already in the ground when the plants were potted up for selling, or they get into the pot easily, since the pots are outside under cover. Centipedes (and millipedes) will not harm your plant. As a matter of fact, they prey on other bugs in the soil, and eat decomposing organic matter. However, they are yucky, and I don’t like it when I see them inside the house. What I would do is remove the dead insects on the surface, then water your plant with a very soapy solution (dishwashing liquid or an insecticidal soap that you buy at the garden centre or Wal-Mart is the best). Completely soak the soil with the soapy water. Do it outside if possible, so that you don’t get the solution on your floor. Keep watering the soil with the solution until it is drenched. The solution should be really soapy and bubbly. It will effectively kill any centipedes and insects in the soil, and leave your plants unharmed. I’ve tried it on my hibiscus plant, and no more centipedes!

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