Were those millipedes in the soil???

tisha_(z7 OKC)February 15, 2006

We were at Lowe's last night and picked out a big beautiful 4' tall corn plant for my Valentine's Day. Keith went over to buy some screws or something, so I was waiting for him and I was messing with the soil on top of the plant (just moving it around because it was uneven, really) and OMG! a bug that looked a heck of a lot like a millipede started crawling around frantically. Then I noticed a few dead ones on top too. Then I noticed dead ones sticking out of the drainage holes!!!

I found a guy who worked there, but he didn't work in the plant dept, so he called someone (he was freaking out too) and this lady comes out and says, "Oh, they won't hurt anything. They aerate the soil!" and just started playing with this bug and letting it crawl all over her hand. OMG So I said, "Well, I'm buying this as a house plant. I'm going to be putting it in my bedroom right next to my bed!" and she said, "Oh, they won't hurt you." OMG Needless to say, I didn't buy it.

Did I overreact? Were they even really millipedes or is there some kind of something that looks like millipedes that they could have been?

Anyway, I'm calling back today to let the manager know that there seems to be some kind of infestation. The plant I picked was right in the middle of a whole giant flat of them.

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That's pretty funny! I'm not freaked by critters like that, but I surely don't want to bring them into my house, let alone my bedroom!
They probably were millipedes; they can be pretty common in potted plants...but you can figure that if they're there, the supplier wasn't being real careful about keeping things cleaned up. Millipedes aren't the worst pests, since they're mostly scavengers of dead plant material, but they can nibble a shoot or a root now and then, too. They're certainly not something you want in your plants, and I don't think there's anything wrong with alerting the store manager.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2006 at 10:23AM
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tisha_(z7 OKC)

I was looking online and found something that said that a lot of people confuse millipedes with wireworms. Wireworms are the larvea of some kind of beetle or something. I wonder if they could have been that? I really wish I'd taken a picture w/ my phone or something. I can't find a picture of a millipede that looks JUST like the ones I saw, but I also can't find a picture of a wireworm that looks just like it either.

I just got off the phone with the manager and he said he'd talk to everyone involved and figure out what they need to do. We'll see.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2006 at 10:41AM
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Wireworms only have legs near their head end, and millipedes have them all along their bodies-- that'd be your biggest clue as to which they were...but if you didn't pay any attention to that, I wouldn't expect you to run back and check ;)
If they were wirworms, that'd probably be worse than millipedes. They're potentially more harmful, and IMHO, their "icky" factor is higher!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2006 at 11:01AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

People confuse millipedes with centipedes most often. The wireworms wouldn't be 'crawling around frantically', but either of the other two creatures would and could.

You don't want any of them IN your home, of course, but they really aren't anything to worry about too much. The centipedes have super long legs for their body size, making them very recognizable. They are predators. The centipedes can be found in very moist leaf litter, or an overcrowded (and damp) greenhouse, basement, etc. They eat organic matter.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2006 at 11:47AM
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Yuck...I'd probably react the same way. It could have been any number of worm-like creatures but it's usually the millipedes and centipedes that end up at home from greenhouses. Centipedes prey on insects so they're the least of your problems in a plant. As a matter of fact, centipedes are considered beneficial. Millipedes are not beneficial and they can and do disturb the plant, especially the roots.

The pots sit on the damp floor with their drainage holes exposed and since those critters like the moisture of the soil, they move right in. Either way, I'm not fond of either of the two so I can't say I really blame you for leaving the plant behind (probably what I'd do :)

I did end up with millipedes one summer and I had to unpot the plant, wash it from leaf tip to roots and repot with fresh soil. It eliminated the bugs completely and I never saw another one again. But it was a small plant so it was easy to do that. A much larger plant (heavy to work with) is a little more difficult. Whether these little critters will hurt you or not, for me it's irrelevant. I'd rather NOT have them in my house. There's a great big world out there for them to live in...indoors with me is not necessary :)

    Bookmark   February 15, 2006 at 12:55PM
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I second Yuck. I am terrified of bugs, let alone milipedes and thier cousins centipedes..
This is one reason you have to be careful buying soils..I have bought soils that had these bugs. Not the pede w/huge legs, but the smaller ones..they love dirt.
Turns out this one bag of 'houseplant' soil wasn't sterile. BTW, it wasn't a cheap brand either. And I just broght the bag home so this bug did not find its way inside between the ride home and bringing it indoors.
What type of plant was it? Toni

    Bookmark   February 15, 2006 at 8:10PM
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tjsangel(z5 OH)

That would gross me out too. A centipede would be much worse. Milipedes dont seem too threatening to me. But I wouldnt think of buying a plant with those things in the soil. I once had a big ugly spider (probably was a common kind, but scared the heck out of me!) camp out in one of my plants. I saw him and ran for the hills!


    Bookmark   February 15, 2006 at 9:08PM
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radagast(US east coast)

I had a big, potted snake plant a few years back that also had a problem with creepy-crawlies in the soil. Some sort of brown, hard-shelled (lots of joints in the shell, so it was like an armored-worm), many-small-legged critter. Probably millipedes. Nothing seemed to get rid of them, and the plant eventually declined for other reasons, so I didn't really feel bad when I chucked the plant and the bugs. Darn pests...

    Bookmark   February 17, 2006 at 3:26PM
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I've just found what I suspect to be millipedes in my parlour palm houseplant I was lovingly given as a housewarming present from friends. How on earth do I get rid of them????

There seems to be lots of them, I've been finding them in my hall way over the last couple of weeks and wondering where they came from.... now I know!

Do I just have to ditch the plant, or can it be rescued, it's rather large so if I can, I'd rather not throw it out

Thanks Dawn

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 3:13PM
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GrowHappy(z7 MD)

You can take it out of the pot, rinse off ALL of the soil and pot it in fresh, well-draining soil and in a new pot. I wouldn't use the same one unless you scrub it and soak it in bleach water for a few hours.

I wouldn't throw the plant away if nothing else is wrong with it. If it were mealies, mites or scales, I might tell you different!


    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 3:54PM
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Not to thread jack here nor to revive an old thread but I may have a picture of what the first poster was talking about. I seem to have an infestation in a plant I bought at Walmart a few months back but I never noticed a problem until recently. I think what I have a picture of here is a snak spotted millipede and I have a lot of them popping out of the soil since I drowned the pot of water in my sink. They are popping out of the soil like crazy now but what do I do now? It's winter here in Canada so I can't just go outside and hose clean the whole thing and I have pets so I didn't want to put insecticides nor do I want to get rid of the plant. I know I want a lot! But one thing is for sure the plant is growing nicely and I really like it. Please take a look at the pic and tell me if I'm right in my research and now how do I fix it? Only seems to be one plant.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   February 22, 2007 at 9:53PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

I have found them only twice on the job (and I take care of thousands of office plants for a living).

First time was when we took over maintenance of some large planters in a fancy office building lobby with kentias, chinese evergreens and pothos. Most of them were dead or nearly so on the floor under the planter stands. Saw maybe a dozen the first week, a few the second week. Nothing since, and the plants have been fine for over a year now.

Second time was in a large potted schefflera we had recently purchased from Florida. First week there were several dozen, again mostly dead or almost and most on the floor. Next week saw maybe a dozen, following week a few, then none. The plant eventually declined and we took it out, but there were other factors causing the problems - I don't think it was the bugs.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2007 at 11:31PM
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Thanks. I checked the plant tonight and they are mostly all curled together. There are a number of tiny ones also. I figured I'll leave it like that all night and then tomorrow morning I'll sick the shop vac on it! I'll try and suck them up and figure out how to drain the water from the pot. Looks like they are thriving in there. My wife said she had seen a couple over a month ago in the same plant but she forgot to tell me about it. Looks like they have a nice breeding ground. If I can suck them up and maybe keep it going until spring time then in the spring I'll repot it when I can get outside without the plant freezing. Thoughts anyone. Maybe they will just die? This does seem like a millipede problem though right by looking at the picture?

    Bookmark   February 23, 2007 at 1:14AM
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A year ago, I purchased two snake plants from Home Depot. About 4 months after bringing them home, I noticed that the leaves were wilting and in general, the plants did not look very healthy. I brought them outside with the intent of changing the soil, but when I lifted them out of the decorative pots, I was appalled to see what appeared to be hundreds of millipede-looking creatures all around the drainage holes and the water dish. Upon closer inspection, I saw that both plants were literally swarming with the bugs. Yuk. I had to dispose of both plants.
Now, here it is a month into a set of two, new snake plants from - you guessed it - Home Depot, and low and behold, they, too, are awash with the same creepy little millipede-looking bugs. I used a systemic insecticide on the plants yesterday and today, many of the bugs are dead or dying around the drainage holes. A caveat to plant shoppers: beware Home Depot.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2008 at 6:07PM
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Dear Imarion, since it is now 2 years later I realize it is a good possibility that you may never see this post.

If you do, I want to thank you. And ask you to update and tell me your results. I asked a similar question (see link) http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/houseplt/msg0718494921135.html?13986

and am glad to finally see a suggestion similar to what I want to do. I am Melba6088 and I sure hope you see this.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 12:20PM
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I just found these little stinkers in my Marjan plant... I've attached a photo. What are they?

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 9:37PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Looks like a symphylan.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 1:50PM
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I'm new to this forum but have been reading about this same pest. I've found many (about 10 or so) of these creepy things on the top soil layer of my potted kaffir lime tree.

I have tried the following sprays but none seem to work:
- Orchard Insect Killer (active ingr: lambda cyhalothrin 0.002%);
- Spinosad 0.001%;
- Insecticidal soap 1%

The creatures curl up for a couple minutes then unwind and simply crawl back around. Can anyone help identify what these creatures are and also how to get rid of them?

I've shared a link below. Thanks for any tips! :)

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 10:48PM
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If you don't receive a response that answers your question by say the end of the week, you could try creating a new post with your question (I think that some people don't look at old posts that have been re-opened; by creating a new post with your question, you might be more likely to receive the best response).

I've had issues with centipedes in plant soil before but I ended up returning the plant (I purchased it a couple days before) so I don't have any experience on how to get rid of the insects. The insect in question looks like a millipede to me. I'm sorry I can't tell you what species of millipede your have or exactly what you could use to get rid of them, but I hope this at least helps.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 4:03PM
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Alshain(8a-8b east-TX)

Millipedes in south central US are like the Christmas Island Crab migration. That time of year and we can't keep them from getting into everything. I'm not surprised by this at all, except for them turning up in February, they are usually around in the fall.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 4:25PM
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eewww-- and I thought gnats were a big prob! sorry-- I hate bugs, have a lot of respect for them, but would rather not have them in my home. It is very humid here and last summer when I moved here, I have never seen so many bugs! So far I'm lucky that they aren't in my plants yet.. hope to keep it that way.

Will gnats be a bother to plants? They seem to be focusing on my Rope Hoya more than anything.. that plant.. I am watching very closely for any bugs!!


    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 1:27PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Sounds like Fungus Gnats, Marjie. The adults aren't a problem, but those adults are laying eggs in the potting soil of your hoya, and the larvae that hatch ARE a problem. Are you keeping your hoya too moist?

Do a google on fungus gnats and you'll see. You can also do a 'Search the Forum' and come up with a zillion or so threads from this forum regarding this plant pest.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 11:00PM
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thanks rhizo-- I dont think it is too moist.. but Im not a bug either, I dont know how moist they like it-- lol. But I will look into it. So far I havent seen anything IN or ON the soil, They just fly around being pesty, and I check it all the time, yes, Im parinoid.

But will look into it tomorrow, it is going on midnight (dont ask) and my eyes dont want to work, my brain stopped about an hour ago.. see you all later!


    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 2:44AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The next time you water this plant, pull the leaves aside so that you can inspect the surface of the soil as you water. The small FG (fungus gnat) larvae are white/translucent little squirmy maggoty looking things that often come to the surface when drenched.

If you've noticed these gnats flitting around the hoya, then I'd say that you're experiencing your first infestation of FG.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 5:03AM
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