Originally created 07/12/01

Millipede cases increase with rain, temperatures



Pat VanHoofer still cringes every time the picture comes into her mind: thousands of little black and brown creatures scaling the wall of a house.

"It was like a horror movie," said the general manager for Advanced Services for Pest Control Inc., in Augusta.

The scene has been repeated again and again in the Augusta area this year: Pest control workers say it's the worst case of millipedes in years.

"It's like somebody put a spell on these things and said, 'Come out. Come out,"' said Laurie Archer, a supervisor for Borden Pest Control in Augusta.

Lately, the creepy, crawley wormlike creatures have been infesting businesses and homes throughout the Augusta area. Pest control workers and experts say it's been spurred on by a summer filled with extra rain and hot temperatures.

"We've never had a summer as bad as this year with the millipedes," said Mrs. Archer, who's been working in pest control for 12 years. She added that one out of every three calls to her office lately has been to report a millipede problem.

Mrs. VanHoofer said her office has been inundated with millipede calls too.

"The thing is, we haven't had any rain for three years," she said. "And now that it's raining, here they are. I've seen them actually crawling up houses by the thousands."

Ron Kimberly, who runs Prestige Floors Inc. from his Evans home, has already been overrun by the intruders.

"Aggravating little cusses," he refers to them with a laugh. "They're heavier this year than I recall them ever being."

But experts say there's no need to fear the loathsome creatures. They don't bite or sting like certain types of centipedes, and they're actually beneficial - eating and decomposing organic materials such as dead leaves and grass. Likewise, they usually die within only a few days.

Charles Phillips, Columbia County's Extension Service Agent, said millipedes typically live on the soil surface of flower beds and lawns in areas where trees are nearby. And while they love warm, moist areas, Mr. Phillips said the millipedes are entering buildings because the extra rain of late has been too much for them to handle, flushing them up from the soil.

"They're trying to stay high and dry," he said.

Mr. Phillips said it's the worst invasion he's seen since the last break of a drought in Augusta nearly four years ago.

"This is probably the second worst year that I've ever seen," he said.

However, preventive measures can be taken to keep the insects from spreading. Mrs. VanHoofer advises that business and homeowners rake back the mulch directly next to buildings to about four feet away until the mulch and ground underneath dries. Mr. Phillips also said pesticides, included those similar to roach repellent with the agent Borax, can be sprayed around doors and windows to prevent entry.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 110, or prestonsparks@newstimesonline.com.