Most of the time, millipedes stay outdoors, preferring to say hidden in the soil or under leaf litter. With all the rain we have been having, however, they have begun venturing inside, looking for drier conditions.
Despite their name, millipedes do not have a thousand legs; however, they do have two sets of legs per segment, with multiple segments. As they grow, they go through several stages, molting their shell each time, which they consume for nutrition.
Most of the millipedes you will encounter are harmless, and will not bite or sting. They are not considered harmful to pets, homes, or possessions. Due to the low humidity in most homes, millipedes die within a couple of days inside. Since they feed on decaying organic matter, the only place they might appreciate in a house is the soil of houseplants. If you find some in your houseplants, remove any mulch or moss and let your houseplant dry out between waterings.
Outside, they are considered beneficial since they break down organic matter. In areas where earthworms are not present, millipedes are valued for performing the same basic functions. Unless they come inside, most will live for a couple of years. There is one species which can live seven years.
It was comforting to me to confirm millipedes will not lay eggs inside. They are considered a minor annoyance for a short period of time, and there are certain controls which may help keep them from coming indoors. Be certain windows and doors are sealed well. Mulch or dead leaves around the house can be removed. One thing you may have no control over is the wet conditions which drive them inside. Insecticides are not usually recommended since they are not harmful, are considered beneficial, and once the rains stop, they will stop seeking drier conditions. Sweeping and vacuuming are the solutions most generally given. Try not to squish them, as they may leave a stain.
Although millipedes are considered harmless, it is best not to handle them since some people have allergic reactions to their defensive secretions. In general, the more colorful the millipede, the more toxic their secretions. Do not get their secretions in your eyes and wash your hands immediately after handling.
Millipedes have been around since the Paleozoic era. Found worldwide, there are thousands of species. Most of the millipedes you will encounter in East Texas will not grow longer than a couple of inches, although they are some millipede species which grow as long as five inches. There are even some which glow in the dark. Since millipedes are most active at night, and they can climb walls, a glowing millipede could be even more upsetting than the minor annoyance inflicted by the ones around here.