Portuguese Millipedes

11 April, 2010

Portuguese Millipede, <I>Ommatoilus moreletti</I> - curled up
Portuguese Millipede, Ommatoilus moreletti - curled up
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Museum Victoria

Question: Why am I being invaded by millipedes?

Answer: The most likely culprit for your millipede invasion is what is commonly known as the Portuguese Millipede, Ommatoiulus moreletti.
As the name suggests this is an introduced species which originates in Europe and was introduced to Australia in 1953. It is now well established in parts of southern Australia including in large cities, like Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, and has spread up into the ACT and southern NSW.

Millipedes generally feed on vegetation and can play an important role in the environment in helping to return nutrients to the soil. However the introduced Portuguese Millipede can reach plague proportions and can enter homes in large numbers. It seems the reason it does this is that this species of millipede is attracted to lights. The millipedes are not coming inside looking for food or mates, and usually die quite quickly as our homes lack food and are much drier than the leaf litter where they usually live. Millipedes do not sting or feed on furnishings or carpets; however they can release a discharge if they feel threatened which can stain carpets so it is a good idea to sweep them up when they are dead.

The millipedes have reached such numbers in the past that they have actually caused disruptions to train services in parts of rural Victoria. Thousands of the millipedes were crushed on the tracks resulting in the trains being unable to gain traction.The Portuguese Millipede may also be competing with native millipedes and other invertebrates, but this is an area that we don’t know much about.

The Portuguese Millipedes lay their eggs in autumn and activity often peaks in autumn after rain, so it is likely that many people are experiencing these millipedes at present in their homes and gardens. Unfortunately at present we have no means of eradicating the Portuguese Millipede, so for the foreseeable future we are going to have to be prepared for their existence in our homes and gardens.

Comments (11)

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Denise Brown 12 April, 2011 09:27
Our country property between Alexandra & Mansfield is infested with these critters. We spray around the perimeter of the buildings with a surface spray which works quite well.but can be washed away with heavy rain. I agree with all the comments above but you ought to see the multiple bucketfulls that we collect. As in dozens of full bucketfulls. All we are doing is protecting inside the house usually but I am concerned that they are multiplying every year. Is there anything we can do??????
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Discovery Centre 13 April, 2011 10:52
Hi Denise - sounds like a fairly unpleasant situation, but unfortunately we aren't the people who can help with advising on control measures; you may want to try contacting a pest control company or your local council's Environmental Health Officer for advice - good luck!
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Sally 18 March, 2012 00:06
We are experiencing about a hundred of these millipeds daily and flushing them down the toilet . They keep coming and getting bigger each day. Yak. It makes my skin cringe. They fall from the cyling and lights and some onto the bed. I don't know what to do. I have small kids and another on the way to make 4. I can't sleep at night due to fear the. Milliped wil come into my blankets. I am in Wyndham near werribee.
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Discovery Centre 18 March, 2012 09:45
Hi Sally, these millipedes being in the house can be unpleasant but don't become too stressed by them. They can be attracted to lights which is why they come into our homes, but once there they die fairly quickly as there is no food for them. Even if one were to be on or in the blankets they don't bite or sting people. This link will provide you with some information on some control methods, but bear in mind that they are very hard to completely eliminate.
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Katherine 17 January, 2013 20:52
Eggh!! These have left red stains over my brand new carpet! Nothing seems to clean it off though - any ideas?
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adriano 2 April, 2013 22:37
To the south Australian government .why do i have to fork out all this money buying chemicals and do all this work setting traps when south Australia is responsible for these Portuguese Millipede in the first place ?They should be funding the money to us because chemicals and traps are not cheap.
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Shanet 9 May, 2013 03:20
Thanks for the concise information. I've been puzzled for a while about these little critters. I figured they were harmless, and after some reading, I'm thankful for my small numbers. Maybe solar lights outdoors might persuade them away from the house. And perhaps leave outdoor lights off. ".......the more you know...."
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maddy 2 November, 2013 17:53
could someone send me 4 of these little guys wanting to do some research on them thanks message me by email if you okay with it
Discovery Centre 3 November, 2013 15:16
Hi Maddy, the Museum doesn't breed this species but it should be fairly easy to find sufficient numbers in your garden, (if you live in Southern Australia) at the right times of the year. This link from the South Australian Government will provide you with some information about when numbers of the adults are highest. Apart from when they can be attracted inside our homes by lights, they can be found in the garden under rocks and in litter and mulch. 
mak 16 March, 2014 21:21
I would like to know if Shanet is on to something with the garden solar lights will this work? I will be moving into our new rental this weekend and we took a trip over to the house today and found these critters everywhere it was scary lol kids loved it picking them up and all but just to make sure.....are these critters safe? Area is Waterford Estate behind Melton South 3338. When I viewed the house I saw some dead ones in the wardrobes which initially until today thought they were worms. So will solar lights work? I would not have signed my lease knowing I would be invaded with these:(
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Discovery Centre 18 March, 2014 09:31

Hi Mak,

As we mentioned in the previous comments, we cannot advise on pest control measures.  More information about pest control can be found here or you can try contacting a local pest control company. 

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