Blaniulus Guttulatus Millipede Info – Learn About Spotted Snake Millipedes

Blaniulus Guttulatus Millipede Info – Learn About Spotted Snake Millipedes

I’m sure you’ve been out to the garden to harvest, weed, and hoe and noticed some slender insects with segmented bodies that look almost like tiny snakes. In fact, upon closer inspection, you notice the creatures have brownish to pinkish spots on the lateral sides of their bodies. You’re looking at spotted snake millipedes (Blaniulus guttulatus). What is a spotted snake millipede? Does Blaniulus guttulatus cause damage in gardens? If so, is there a spotted snake millipede control? The following article contains the answers to these questions and other Blaniulus guttulatus millipede info.

What is a Spotted Snake Millipede?

Spotted snake millipedes, along with centipedes, are members of a group of animals called myriapods, Centipedes are soil dwelling predatory animals that have only one pair of legs per body segment. Juvenile millipedes have three pairs of legs per body segment.

Centipedes are more active than millipedes and, when discovered, make a run for it while millipedes either freeze in their tracks or curl up. Millipedes hide in the soil or under logs and stones during the day. At night, they come to the soil surface and sometimes climb up onto plants.

Blaniulus guttulatus Millipede Info

Spotted snake millipedes are a little over half an inch (15 mm.) in length, about the width of pencil lead. They lack eyes and have bodies that are pale white to cream in color with pinkish spots on their sides that represent defensive glands.

These soil inhabitants feed on decaying plant material and lay their eggs in the soil during spring and summer, either singly or in small batches. The eggs hatch into miniature versions of the adults and can take several years before they reach maturity. During this period of adolescence, they will shed their skins 7-15 times and increase their length by adding additional segments to their bodies.

Blaniulus guttulatus Damage

While spotted snake millipedes primarily feed on decomposing organic matter, they can do damage to crops under certain conditions. During prolonged drought, this millipede may be attracted to crops to assuage their moisture needs. Infestation of spotted snake millipedes is often at its peak in soils rich in organic matter. Rainfall will also trigger an infestation.

Blaniulus guttulatus can sometimes be found feeding inside bulbs, potato tubers and other root veggies. They are usually following the path of least resistance, enlarging the damage already done by slugs or another pest or disease. Healthy plants are usually undamaged by millipedes due to their relatively weak mouthparts that are more suited to already decomposing matter.

Garden crops that are susceptible to spotted snake millipede damage include:

  • Strawberries
  • Potatoes
  • Sugar beets
  • Turnips
  • Beans
  • Squash

Feeding damage at the roots can cause the rapid death of these plants.

Spotted Snake Millipede Control

Generally speaking, millipedes rarely cause any serious damage, so it isn’t necessary to control them with any chemical controls. Instead, practice good garden sanitation by removing crop residue and decaying plant material. Also, remove any old mulch or decomposing leaves that may harbor millipedes.

Entomopathogenic nematodes are useful in managing millipede infestations.

When strawberries are becoming damaged by millipedes, it’s probably because the fruit is resting on the soil. Place straw or hay around the plants to lift up the fruit. In the case of damage done to potatoes, the millipedes are probably just following the damage done by slugs, so steps should be taken to eliminate the slug problem.

Chances are good that any minor millipede problem will sort itself out. Millipedes have many natural enemies such as birds, frogs, toads, hedgehogs, and ground beetles that are always searching for a tasty millipede morsel.

Prevent infestation with Millipedes

Millipedes are a group of arthropods that are characterised by having two pairs of jointed legs on most body segments. Each double-legged segment is a result of two single segments fused together. There are approximately 12,000 named species classified into 16 orders and around 140 families, making Diplopoda the largest class of myriapods, an arthropod group which also includes centipedes and other multi-legged creatures.

Millipedes are generally harmless to humans, although some can become household or garden pests, especially in greenhouses where they can cause severe damage to emergent seedlings. They occur on all continents except Antarctica, and occupy almost all terrestrial habitats and feed on decomposing vegetation, faeces, or organic matter mixed with soil. They often play important roles in the breakdown and decomposition of plant litter. Some millipedes are herbivorous, feeding on living plants, and some species can become serious pests of crops. Some feed on algae from barks, and some feed on fungi. A few species are omnivorous or occasionally carnivorous, feeding on insects, centipedes, earthworms, or snails, and they become themselves meal for various reptiles, amphibians, birds, mammals, and insects.

As pests, some millipedes can infest thatched roofs in India, or periodically invade homes in Australia. Other species exhibit periodical swarming behaviour, which can also result in home invasions, crop damage, and train delays when the tracks become slippery with the crushed remains of hundreds of millipedes. For example, Blaniulus guttulatus can cause significant damage to crops: the spotted snake millipede is a noted pest of sugar beets and other root crops, and as a result is one of the few millipedes with a common name, as it is regularly met by farmers.

To be able to avoid a millipede infestation, you need to take into consideration several methods that will help you prevent such an occurrence. Be aware of the fact that millipedes prefer humid and chilly environments, so make sure you control this aspect inside and around your house as much as possible. People find millipedes under mulch, piles of dead leaves, or under piles of grass clipping. They also live under structures like dog houses and storage sheds, and thrive in places where the soil stays damp. They eat dead leaves and decaying wood particles that they find around the yard.

In the fall, they are known to often migrate. They move out of their normal habitat and it is believed they do this in order to get ready for winter. However, millipedes have also been seen migrating after a heavy rain has flooded their habitat. During these migrations, millipedes often find their way into homes. They gather on porches and patios, climb the foundation of the home and they often find entryways such as basement doors and windows, crawlspace vents, and garage doors. They can be found in any place of the house, however, they prefer do rooms with a high level of humidity.

Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Agdex#: 258/611
Publication Date: FEBRUARY 2009
Order#: 09-009W
Last Reviewed: FEBRUARY 2009
Written by: Jennifer Allen - Vegetable Crops Specialist/OMAFRA and Melanie Filotas - Specialty Crops IPM Specialist/OMAFRA

Table of contents

Millipedes are generally considered beneficial in vegetable production systems because they feed on decaying plant material, which helps incorporate organic matter into the soil. However, under certain conditions, millipede populations can build to high levels and may damage the roots and seedlings of a variety of crops. In recent years, millipedes have become an increasing problem in Ontario root crops, particularly carrots and sweet potatoes. Millipede damage has recently been observed in ginseng seedlings and is increasing in field corn grown under no- or low-till cultivation.

Identifying Millipedes

Millipedes (Figure 1) are often confused with other arthropods commonly found in soil, such as wireworms (Figure 2) and centipedes (Figure 3). Millipedes have elongated, cylindrical bodies that range in length from 1-10 cm at maturity. They range in colour from white to grey-black and tend to coil up into a tight spiral when disturbed. They have numerous, uniform body segments. The number of segments varies with species and increases with age. Their most distinguishing feature is their many legs. They have two pairs per body segment (Figure 4).

Figure 1. Millipedes commonly found in Ontario root crops.

Figure 2. Wireworm. (Photo courtesy of Frank Peairs, Colorado State University,

Figure 3. Centipede. Note the long legs, which extend out from the body. (Photo courtesy of Jim Kalisch, University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Figure 4. Millipede, showing multiple pairs of legs per body segment. (Photo courtesy of David Cappaert, Michigan State University,

Centipedes are usually yellow to reddish brown and have flatter bodies than millipedes. Unlike millipedes, they have only one pair of legs per body segment. Centipede legs are generally longer and tend to stick out along the sides of their bodies.

Wireworms only have three pairs of legs, all located on the thorax (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Millipede (top) versus wireworm (bottom). Wireworms have only 3 pairs of legs, all on the thorax, while millipedes have multiple pairs of legs, extending the length of the body. (Photo courtesy of Liane O'Keefe, University of Guelph)

There are approximately 10,000 known species of millipedes worldwide, however only three species have been implicated as damaging Ontario root crOPS - Cylindroiulus caeruleocinctus, Blaniulus guttulatus and Pseudopolydesmus spp.

The first two species belong to a group called julids, sometimes referred to as snake millipedes. They have a typical millipede appearance - a cylindrical body and rounded head used for ramming through the soil. The two julids can be distinguished by their colour - C. caeruleocinctus is dark brown or black (Figure 6) while B. guttulatus (the spotted snake millipede) is much lighter (white to yellow) with red spots running down the side (Figure 7).

Figure 6. Cylindroiulus caeruleocinctus.

Figure 7. Blaniulus guttulatus - spotted snake millipede. (Photo courtesy of D.K.B. Cheung, University of Guelph)

The third species, Pseudopolydesmus, has a flatter body shape with distinct body segments (Figure 8).

Figure 8. Pseudopolydesmus spp. (Photo courtesy of D.K.B. Cheung, University of Guelph)

Biology and Behaviour

Millipedes, sometimes called millepedes or millipeds, play an important ecological role by breaking down organic matter in a variety of environments. Although the majority of the 10,000 known species of millipedes are beneficial, certain species are pests of crops, including potatoes, sugarbeet, carrots, sweet potato, cole crops, strawberries and peas and beans.

Millipedes belong to a class of soil arthropods that have two pairs of legs on each body segment. As they grow, millipedes increase their length by adding body segments. With each additional segment come two pairs of new legs. In temperate regions, they range in length from 1-10 cm in the tropics, they can be as long as 28 cm. Similar to insects, millipedes grow and mature with successive moults. C. caeruleocinctus has 14 moults, while B. guttulatus has 11.

In Ontario, most millipedes lay clusters of 20-300 eggs in nests buried in the soil. From the time of egg laying in the spring or early summer, it takes millipedes at least a year and half to achieve sexual maturity. Some species, like C. caeruleocinctus and B. guttulatus can live from 2-5 years.

Millipedes are typically nocturnal, feeding at night. Many report that millipedes prefer humid, moist environments to reduce the risk of desiccation. However, research from around the world shows millipedes can be active and damaging to the roots of crops during periods of drought when the only source of moisture may be the crops themselves.

Millipedes have their own unique self-defence mechanisms. They don't bite or sting, but release chemicals when disturbed or crushed.

The type of chemical defence compound released depends on the type of millipede. For example, julid millipedes (e.g., C. caeruleocinctus) produce quinones while some polydesmida millipedes produce cyanogenic compounds. These fluids are generally not toxic to humans but can be dangerous to the eyes and may produce allergic reactions in sensitive people. They are also responsible for the distinctively unpleasant odour commonly associated with dead millipedes.


Start sampling for millipedes in the spring, just before or shortly after seeding carrots or transplanting sweet potato slips. Research conducted in Ontario in 2007 found that pitfall traps were the most effective method of trapping millipedes early in the season. As the season progressed and plant canopies filled in, more millipedes were captured in the corn bait traps. Buried cut potato bait traps were also evaluated but were the least efficient at trapping millipedes of the three traps. For all trap types, place individual traps at 10-20 marked sites in a Z or W pattern across the middle of the field, with traps placed at least 10 m away from the field edge. This will provide a relative measure of field populations. Monitor populations for 2 consecutive weeks or more.

Pitfall Traps

To make a pitfall trap, bury a plastic cup so that the rim of the container is just above the soil surface, to help prevent rainwater from filling the cup (Figure 9).Partially fill the cup with non-poisonous, mammal-friendly antifreeze, which acts as a preservative. To protect the trap, construct a roof or canopy above it, using a plastic lid from a dairy container and two pieces of galvanized wire (Figure 10). Remove and replace pitfall traps with new cups and antifreeze weekly.

Figure 10. Pitfall trap and lid.

Corn Bait Traps

To make a corn bait trap, place a 1?4 cup of untreated corn seed into a fine, mesh pouch (Figure 11). Soak the pouch in water for at least 12 hours before burying it approximately 15 cm deep at flagged locations. To avoid problems with rotting corn, replace bait traps every 3-4 days.


Thresholds have not been established for millipedes in horticulture or field crops. Further research in Ontario is required to determine the number of millipedes in sweet potatoes and carrots that leads to economic losses.

Based on preliminary sweet potato data, finding 5-10 millipedes in at least half the traps or more than 20 millipedes in two or more traps, during a monitoring period, warrants further investigation - trapping later in the season and/or examining sample roots later in the summer (late August to early September) for scraping, holes, tunnels or other signs of damage.

Best Management Practices

Since millipedes have not been previously recognized as a pest of root crops in Ontario, there is very little information available on how to manage them. Chemical control is not an option, as there are currently no pesticides registered for use against millipedes in any field or vegetable crop in Canada.

In fields where pre-season monitoring suggests millipede populations are high, early tillage prior to planting may help bring millipedes to the surface where they are susceptible to desiccation and predation.

If monitoring during the field season suggests that populations are high, harvest as early as possible, because millipedes will continue to feed on crops as long as they are in the soil. Remove crop residue after harvest rather than leaving it in the field to reduce additional food sources and possible overwintering sites.

Generally, millipede populations are thought to do best under cool, moist conditions. Avoid practices that increase soil moisture above that required by the crop. (Note, however, that even though 2007 was a dry season, high populations of millipedes in carrot and sweet potato fields were found.)

It is important to start monitoring and documenting millipede activity in Ontario root crops. Information on seasonal dynamics, crop rotations, soil type, soil moisture, damage assessments and crop varieties will prove valuable in the development of best management practices for destructive millipedes. If you suspect millipede activity or damage in your root crops, monitoring will help determine how to respond.

Spotted Snake Millipedes

Having seen a few wire worms on the area of the plot where I was planning on putting the spuds last weekend I chopped up a few spuds, stuck them on sticks and buried them a few inches deep.

I dug up the traps yesterday I was happy to find a few wire worms. much less happy to find LOADS of, what I thought were tiny, baby, millipedes!

Being short on time and having nowhere else for the spuds to go I bit the bullet and stuck in the seed potatoes hoping the little blighters wouldn't chomp through all of them.

Having done a bit of goggling when I got home I now think they are Spotted Snake Millipedes which, it seems, is bad news for spuds and other root crops.

It seems they are more likely to eat crops during times of drought which is odd as the largest numbers of them were in the damper part of the ground.

Apart from keeping the ground well watered has anyone got any ideas if they can be got rid of at all?

Additional Resources on Millipedes

  • Millipedes - Explore this Iowa State University web page to discover more awesome things about millipedes.
  • Millipede - Britannica - Find more wonderful facts about millipedes on the Britannica website.
  • Millipede - Wikipedia - Learn more about millipedes and the Diplopoda class on the Wikipediam website.

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