‘Bizarre’ millipede plague wreaks havoc in NSW and ACT homes

Hannah Sparks 22 March 2021 213
Portuguese millipede.

Portuguese millipedes have been wreaking havoc in Canberra and parts of NSW. Photo: Pixabay.

Have you noticed any 100-legged intruders in your house lately? If so, you’re not alone.

Hundreds of people have been sharing their close encounters with millipedes currently in plague proportions and invading homes across Canberra and the NSW South Coast, Southern Tablelands and Central West.

One resident in Yass, near Canberra, says her family has been switching off their lights at night to avoid the millipedes coming inside, while another says the creatures have been crawling all over the eaves, bricks, doors and windows of their house this week.

Anna Marsden lives nearby in Murrumbateman and says locals have been complaining about having to sweep up the millipedes several times per day.

“Yesterday, I was at the Murrumbateman vet and they had millipedes galore,” she says. “It was the same at my Pilates studio. They seem to come into places built at floor level – luckily our house is on stumps.”

Glen Wynn owns a pest control business in the Yass Valley and he says this is the “most substantial” millipede plague he has ever seen in his career.

“Last year, we were getting a lot of calls about earwigs, then suddenly millipedes this year,” he says. “It’s very bizarre.”

Millipedes crawling all over a Yass house.

Helen Shaw shared this photo of millipedes crawling all over her house in Yass. Photo: Supplied.

Dr Tanya Latty, an associate professor and entomologist at the University of Sydney, and Graham Milledge, who manages the millipede collection at the Australian Museum in Sydney, believe it’s the Portuguese millipede that’s wreaking havoc down south.

“It’s hard to know without seeing the millipedes, however just from their behaviour, the tendency to form big groups is something we see more often in Portuguese millipedes than our native species,” says Dr Latty.

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The Portuguese millipede was accidentally introduced into Australia and has become an invasive pest.

Mr Milledge said they’re adapted to Mediterranean conditions and are commonly found in the southern states including Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, ACT and southern NSW, although rarely seen in Sydney.

A wet spring and summer, caused by La Nina, has created the perfect breeding ground for the Portuguese millipede, says Dr Latty.

“Millipedes like moist environments so the rain gives them that breeding habitat,” she says.

“They also feed on decaying matter so if you’ve got a nice, humid environment, you’re going to have more millipede food around.”

With that being said, people who aren’t a fan of millipedes living inside should at least encourage them to move into their garden.

“Millipedes are really important for nutrient-cycling,” says Dr Latty. “They break down big pieces of debris into bits that can be put back into the soil and used by plants and other organisms.

“I think any invertebrate, in any large number, freaks people out, but there’s also a tendency to confuse millipedes with centipedes.

“Centipedes can be venomous and deliver a nasty bite, whereas millipedes won’t sting or bite. Their main defence is to secrete a nasty chemical compound, which can be irritating, but it’s not the same as a centipede envenomating someone.”

Mr Milledge said millipedes are nocturnal to avoid predators.

It’s probably the bright lights glowing outside from houses that are attracting the millipedes inside, adds Dr Latty.

A millipede on ground.

Nigel Buffoon picked up this millipede in Murrumbateman, near Canberra. Photo: Supplied.

“Millipedes are attracted to light so if lights are on at night, it’s possible they are coming out and honing in on the light,” says Dr Latty.

“It’s also just possible there’s a lot of them around, and a lot of houses are not very well sealed in Australia. They’re probably not going inside purposefully because there’s not a lot of food for them inside people’s houses.”

The bad news is it’s difficult to say how long the Portuguese millipede will stick around for.

“Typically, their breeding season is one to two months long and after that, they should die down in numbers as the colder weather starts to move in, but it’s so hard to predict,” says Dr Latty.

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“It comes down to a real problem in invertebrate research, which is that we don’t have good data for species such as Portuguese millipedes that have these periodic outbreaks.

“So if anyone is interested in doing a little citizen science, if you can get a good photo of the millipedes and upload them to the iNaturalist app or website, that information can get used by scientists to do things such as tracking the spread of millipedes or population spikes.”

While we aren’t used to millipede plagues annually, Dr Latty says an outbreak such as this isn’t unprecedented and that, in 2002, a similar outbreak shut down the train line between Ballarat and Melbourne.

Original Article published by Hannah Sparks on About Regional.

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213 Responses to ‘Bizarre’ millipede plague wreaks havoc in NSW and ACT homes
Donna Wraith Donna Wraith 10:10 pm 29 Mar 21

I've had an earwig invasion.

Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 3:24 pm 28 Mar 21

I think whether millipedes can get in a house or not, are a test of how well a house is sealed. If people are getting a lot of these millipedes inside it means there are gaps. These gaps also make it harder and more expensive to warm a house in winter, and keep the heat out in summer. Look for and seal these gaps. As well as keeping millipedes out, sealing the bigger gaps will make it less likely mice will get in, should the mice plague arrive here. It will make the house warmer in winter too.

Georgie Hartwell Georgie Hartwell 10:52 am 26 Mar 21

The rain has brought slugs to front door

Chris McNally Chris McNally 10:47 pm 25 Mar 21

Portuguese eh? Well that explains why there's a Brazilian of them in my house.

Kim Meale Kim Meale 4:30 pm 25 Mar 21

Chris Meale there’s a plague of them 😂

Stuie Campbell Stuie Campbell 4:06 pm 24 Mar 21

Pick them up add to boiling water enjoy I do

Jess Chapman Jess Chapman 2:49 pm 24 Mar 21

Michael J. Chapman this explains it!!!

Kelly Steele Kelly Steele 2:26 pm 24 Mar 21

Will Barrett!!!!!! This is them!!!

Greg Carter Greg Carter 12:30 pm 24 Mar 21

What a beat up. They are harmless.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:06 am 24 Mar 21

I haven’t seen any millipedes but in the last week my backyard has been invaded by thousands of slimy slugs.

Marlon Booth Marlon Booth 7:04 am 24 Mar 21

Stevie Louise

I seen some this morning

    Stevie Louise Stevie Louise 7:04 am 24 Mar 21

    Marlon Booth yess babe in the toilet all curled up and cold!

    Che Zzi Che Zzi 9:15 am 24 Mar 21

    Stevie Louise I have em make me Sick

    Stevie Louise Stevie Louise 9:40 am 24 Mar 21

    Che Zzi we don’t have many but yeh there gross

    Simone Davidson Simone Davidson 4:17 pm 24 Mar 21

    Marlon Booth Stevie Louise 😂😂😂 that’s messed up cuz, kill all of them.

    Marlon Booth Marlon Booth 4:19 pm 24 Mar 21

    Simone Davidson 😂 I will hunt them down for you 🤣

    Simone Davidson Simone Davidson 4:23 pm 24 Mar 21

    get em all, keep them away from the kids!

Melisa Jay Bishop Melisa Jay Bishop 10:22 pm 23 Mar 21

Selina Bishop so many plagues!

    Selina Bishop Selina Bishop 10:50 pm 23 Mar 21

    Melisa I have seen these around the house and found 1 inside!

    Melisa Jay Bishop Melisa Jay Bishop 11:12 pm 23 Mar 21

    Selina Bishop I’ve had a few. Had a huge one the other night

Jacinta Deany Jacinta Deany 8:32 pm 23 Mar 21

Sarah-Kate Kendall are these what was in the cabin?

    Sarah-Kate Kendall Sarah-Kate Kendall 8:36 pm 23 Mar 21

    Jacinta Deany maybe. I’m not sure cause they were all dead!

    Jacinta Deany Jacinta Deany 8:42 pm 23 Mar 21

    Sarah-Kate Kendall haha maybe the plague got him

Emily Xu Emily Xu 7:45 pm 23 Mar 21

Ethan Nguyen when will they reach southside

Michelle Cooper Michelle Cooper 7:16 pm 23 Mar 21

Allison - crawl, crawl, drop!

Adelaide Bragias Adelaide Bragias 7:06 pm 23 Mar 21

Gregor Dryburgh this is feral

Ashleigh Francis Ashleigh Francis 6:33 pm 23 Mar 21

Luke Colquhoun Tracey Venables makes sense

Mashfi Rahman Mashfi Rahman 12:09 pm 23 Mar 21

Call the exterminator Abdul Rahman

Bronwyn Groves Bronwyn Groves 11:55 am 23 Mar 21

I live in Canberra and there have been lots and lots in our house for weeks. I don't mind them, they are quite cute. I gently sweep them up with a dustpan and broom and put them out in the garden. After reading this article, I now know why there are so many.

Cara Harvey Cara Harvey 11:48 am 23 Mar 21

Clinton Harvey...there you go! No wonder are seeing so many inside!

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