Today when I woke up and checked the soil of my potted plants, I found several millipedes running around in it. I did some research to find out what these insects are and how I could get rid of them.
The best way to get rid of millipedes is by using organic methods like using a trap, removing them by hand, using chickens, or applying diatomaceous earth. You could also use pesticides to get rid of them but leave that as a last resort only if there’s an infestation.
If you have millipedes in your potted plants, you might get freaked out looking at the large insects. But don’t worry, because there are several ways you can take them out of the plants.
How to get rid of millipedes in potted plants?
There are several ways to get rid of millipedes in potted plants. I always recommend starting with the organic methods before going for chemicals pesticides.
Millipedes can also be beneficial to your potted plants as they consume decomposing plant matter and enrich the soil. So I would suggest avoiding killing the millipedes unless absolutely required.
They tend to become a pest when they start feeding on your seedlings and young plants in the garden. They also become a problem when there are too many of them causing an infestation in your potted plants.
Here are 6 effective ways that you can use to get rid of millipedes in your potted plants.
Pick them out of your plants
The next best approach is to use your hands and pick them off the potted plants. You can then release them far away from your plants. This method only works if you’re not squeamish touching bugs in the garden.
You need to be careful not to squish or stress the millipedes because they release a chemical that causes a foul smell. Some people might also be allergic to this chemical. In some rare cases, there are some millipedes that have a bite that can be mildly poisonous.
You can use a pair of gardening gloves if you don’t prefer to touch them using your hands or just want to be extra careful.
You can get the gardening gloves for free or a really cheap price. Check out my post on container gardening on a budget to get some ideas.
If you really want to avoid touching them, you can use a shop vac to suck the millipedes up and dispose of them.
Catch them with a trap
You can attract the millipedes towards a trap and catch them. Then you can release them far away from the potted plants.
Plastic bottle trap
You can make a simple trap using the below materials:
- Plastic bottle (soda bottle) with cap
- Vinyl tubing (from a hardware store)
- Pocket knife
- Piece of ripe fruit
Place the piece of ripe fruit inside the plastic bottle. This will attract the millipedes into the bottle.
If the vinyl tubing is the same width as the mouth of the plastic bottle, you can just insert it. If not, you can make a small hole in the bottle cap with the pocket knife and insert the vinyl tubing in it.
Insert the vinyl tubing inside the mouth of the bottle so 2-inches of the tubing is inside the bottle. Make sure the tubing is not touching the sides of the bottle.
You can secure the tubing to the bottle by using the tape.
Place this plastic bottle trap in the potting soil that has been infested by the millipedes. Make sure the plastic bottle is lying on its side with the mouth touching the soil if possible.
The millipedes will be attracted to the piece of fruit and get inside the bottle through the tubing. Once inside, they won’t be able to crawl back out.
Every day that you find some millipedes inside the bottle, you can take them far away from the potted plants and release them.
LED light trap
You can set this trap up if your potted plants are outdoors in a garden. Millipedes are attracted to light and you can use this to your advantage to trap them.
You will need the below materials
- A deep food container
- A bucket that can cover the container
- A bright battery-powered LED light
- Pair of cutters
Use the shovel to make a hole in the garden near the potted plants deep enough so the food container can sit inside it. The rim of the container should match with the surface of the soil.
Make sure to cover the sides of the container with the soil so that it is tight and does not move or have any gaps. Add the water to the food container so it’s full.
Use the cutters to cut some narrow slits on the top of the bucket. These slits will allow the millipedes to enter inside the bucket.
Use the tap and stick the battery-powered LED on the bottom of the bucket. Place the bucket upside down on top of the food container filled with water.
At night, you need to turn on the LED so the millipedes will be attracted to the warm light. They will enter inside the bucket, fall into the water-filled food container and drown.
You can remove the bucket in the morning and check for any millipedes in the food container. Then throw the water and replace it with a fresh supply.
Attract beneficial animals
There are some animals that like to feast on the millipedes. So this solution works if you can bring them to your potted plants.
Animals like frogs, toads, ravens, pigeons like to eat the millipedes. You can also raise some chickens that would eat up the millipedes. The benefit of chickens is you can get some eggs and chicken manure as well.
This solution will only work if your potted plants are outdoors and you have a garden that can be suitable to hold such animals.
Use diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth is the fossilized material of microscopic organisms known as diatoms. You can find this material near river beds, lakes, streams, and the ocean.
The powdered form of this material is suitable to get rid of arthropods. These are insects that have a segmented body with an exoskeleton.
The diatomaceous earth is effective against insects like aphids, mealybugs, Japanese beetles, mites, and even millipedes. Make sure to buy food-grade diatomaceous earth from a garden center or at an online store.
The diatomaceous earth powder has sharp microscopic edges that lodge in the joints of such insects. They cut up the outer shell of the insects and dehydrate them which ultimately ends up killing the insects.
You can spray this powder on your potting soil and the millipedes will die once they come in contact with it. Diatomaceous earth is organic and it will take a few days till the powder affects the millipedes.
I’ve written a detailed post on how to use diatomaceous earth on your plants. You will learn when to use it and how often you should.
Make sure the spray the powder when your kids and pets are away from the potted plants. Also, make sure to use a mask when spraying it. Diatomaceous earth is not toxic but it can irritate the lungs if you inhale the powder.
I find the better option is to mix the diatomaceous earth powder with water and then spray it on the potting soil. This helps avoid the powder from flying around. Once the water dries out, the diatomaceous earth will become effective.
An alternative to using diatomaceous earth is boric acid. You should be able to get this from a laundry aisle at the shopping center.
The boric acid works similarly to the diatomaceous earth where it cuts the millipedes with it’s sharp, microscopic edges and then dehydrates them. It also acts as a poison when the millipedes ingest the powder.
I would suggest using boric acid only if you don’t have children and pets moving around near your potted plants.
Spray chemicals on the potting soil
I would suggest keeping this as a last alternative. Only use this when there’s a heavy infestation of millipedes in your garden.
If you’re growing vegetables in the pots, I would suggest not to use this chemical option because you risk contaminating the vegetables as well.
The chemical pesticides will get rid of the millipedes fast but they will stay in the potting soil for a while. Some of them may also affect beneficial insects that may be living in your potted plants.
You can use pesticides that contain chemicals like Bendiocarb, Carbaryl, Propoxur, Cyfluthrin, or Pyrethrin to get rid of the millipedes.
It’s important to follow the instructions mentioned by the manufacturer on these pesticide bottles. If you use too much, you risk making the potting soil toxic. This will end up killing the beneficial insects and the plant itself.
Get rid of the potting soil
If there is a heavy infestation of millipedes in your potted plant, one option is to get rid of the potting soil itself.
This means you need to transplant the plant from one pot to another. Make sure to pick out all the millipedes that may be on your plant before doing the transplant.
Get a new pot and fill it up with fresh potting soil. Hold the base of the plant and gently tap on the pot to loosen the root ball.
Once the plant has come out of the pot, make sure to remove as much potting soil as possible from the roots. Make a hole in the center of the potting soil in the new pot.
Place the root ball of the plant in the hole and cover the roots with the potting soil. Water the potting soil well till water drains out from the bottom.
You need to dispose of the potting soil in the old pot that was infested with millipedes. You can reuse the pot once you’ve soaked it in a mix of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water for at least an hour.
Make sure to wash the pot well with water and dry it out before you can reuse it.
How to keep millipedes out of your potted plants?
Once you have managed to remove or kill the millipedes from your potted plants, you want to permanently keep them away. Below are some of the options you can apply to the potted plants.
Spray essential oils
Essential oils may not kill the millipedes but you can use them to discourage the millipedes from getting into your potted plants.
Some essential oils that are found to be effective against millipedes are tea tree oil and peppermint oil. These have a strong odor that millipedes don’t like.
You need to create a diluted mixture of the essential oils and water before spraying it on the potted plant. If you just use the essential oils, they are too concentrated and toxic enough to burn your plant.
Follow the instructions by the manufacturer on how much you need to dilute the essential oil. As a general rule, you can add 1 ounce of the oil in a gallon of water.
Spray the mixture on the potting soil as well as the leaves of the plant to deter the millipedes. The essential oils do have a strong smell so don’t spray it near a location that is often visited by humans and pets.
If you’re growing potted vegetables and spray such essential oil, make sure to wash the vegetables well after harvesting them.
Clean your garden of plant matter
The leaves and plant matter that fall in your potted plant creates a dark, damp environment below them that millipedes will be attracted to.
They enjoy eating the decaying plant matter like leaves, stems, roots, and rotting fruits. It’s best to clean such plant matter as soon as possible so they don’t get a chance to invade your potted plants.
You may need to add dried leaves, grass clippings, or wood chips as mulch in your potted plants. I would suggest keeping this as minimal as possible because millipedes prefer to stay in it.
If you have plant matter or unwanted objects lying around in your yard, that’s another reason why millipedes may be attracted to your garden.
Always keep your potted plants as well as the yard clean and free from any kind of clutter that creates an environment suitable for millipedes.
Be cautious when watering your plants
Another situation that can create a damp environment that attracts millipedes is too much water in your potting soil.
You need to avoid overwatering the soil. Make sure to only water the soil when it has turned dry 1-2 inches below the surface.
If your potted plants are placed in a tray, make sure to throw out the water every day after watering the plant. If you let the water remain in the tray, the millipedes will be attracted to the pot.
It’s best to water your potted plants in the morning. This helps the potting soil get the required moisture before the sun rises.
The heat from the sun will evaporate any excess moisture from the soil surface as well as the leaves. This discourages the millipedes from making a home in the potted plant.
If you can only water the potted plants in the evening, make sure to just water the potting soil. Avoid splashing water on the foliage and if you do so clean it up so it does not stay on the plant overnight.
You can spray wood ash on your potting soil as it helps to absorb the excess moisture from the surface.
Fix any pots with cracks in them
If your pots have cracks in them, they become a breeding ground for millipedes. The damp, dark, hiding place is convenient for them to survive.
It’s best to check your pots every day for signs of any cracks or crevices. If you find these in the pot, it’s best to seal the crack with caulk.
If the crack is too large to fix, it’s best to get the pot replaced. You will need to transplant the plant from the existing pot to a new one.
Use organic repellents
Cayenne pepper is a natural deterrent for many pests including millipedes. You can get some fresh cayenne pepper and grind it into a powder or directly buy the powder.
Sprinkle the powder on the potting soil and the millipedes will try to avoid getting into the potted plant.
You can also use pure sulfur powder to deter millipedes from making a home in your potted plants. Sprinkle the powder on the potting soil to keep them away.
The only problem with using sulfur is that it smells bad. So you should only use this when the potted plants are outdoors and far away from the house.
How to get rid of millipede smell?
When millipedes get agitated or killed, they may release a foul-smelling chemical as part of their defense mechanism.
If you accidentally touch this chemical while getting rid of the millipedes, you may start smelling or worse suffer from an allergic reaction.
That’s why I recommend using gardening gloves when using methods where you need to come in contact with the millipedes.
You can use materials like vinegar, baking soda, or bleach to get rid of the smell left by millipedes. Make sure to dilute the material with water before spraying it on the area. Leave the sprayed mixture for an hour before you rinse it away using water.