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Millipedes in vegetables

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

Jerry Wenzel

Photo 1: Despite the circumstantial evidence, the millipedes did not damage this carrot; they are taking advantage of previous damage.

A couple of home gardeners encountered millipedes in some of their vegetables during October. In one case they were in a few potatoes, in another instance they were infesting a carrot. There was concern whether the millipedes were attacking healthy vegetables. Fortunately, the millipedes were not causing damage in the garden. They have weak mouthparts and are only capable of feeding on decaying organic matter. It is possible for them to feed on plants that have already been damaged but they are not attacking healthy plants.

A 2012 research article in the Journal of Applied Entomology looked at the potential of millipedes and wireworms to attack carrots (also sweet potatoes). They found the presence of the millipedes was associated with wireworm damage to carrots. The millipedes themselves were not causing damage but were there as a result of preexisting wireworm injury. That is also what is probably happening with the presence of millipedes in the potatoes. The millipedes were not damaging the tubers but were there because of other damage (probably wireworms).

Fortunately wireworm damage is not common in home gardens and this kind of injury (as well invasion by millipedes) should not be a problem very often.
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