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Centipedes and worms


by Richard Jones

Any gardener should always be pleased to find centipedes. Since they are hunters, they cannot do any harm to the plants or their roots.


MillipedesIt was blisteringly cold on Sunday, and the water butts were frozen over, but it was not a deep frost. So repairing and replacing the raised beds up at the allotment was relatively easy. The old scaffold planks we put in four or five years ago have served their purpose (neatness, rather than anything else), but the subterranean portions have started rotting away to mulch. Armed with some heftier-than-normal pallet planks donated by a neighbour, I started digging.

As usual, there were plenty of woodlice, and a pleasing variety of worms, but the most numerous invertebrates were centipedes. These were the long thin, many- and short-legged Haplophilus (or similar) species. They have lots of short legs for pushing through the soil, a bit like millipedes. But, just like the longer-legged species, they are predators of other small invertebrates.

There were hundreds of them. The rotting timber was obviously the ideal site to shelter in. When they set off, they have a lovely fluid motion, and seem to glide effortlessly along. But if you pick them up they tie themselves in knots. Literally. They curl into a rough ball, looping their curls together into a living clove hitch.

Any gardener should always be pleased to find centipedes. Since they are hunters, they cannot do any harm to the plants or their roots. I once came across an allotmenteer who was completely flummoxed when I showed him a picture of one of these centipedes. He admitted that he thought they were wireworms, and had been chopping them in half with his spade for 35 years. Ooops.



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Gardeners' World Web User 02/02/2011 at 14:54

Reply to Queen Victoria. Your majesty, No-one could accuse me of keeping a too-tidy allotment. My piece-meal repairs ought not to cause too much concern. Thank you for your keen and quick-witted attention though.

Gardeners' World Web User 03/02/2011 at 18:31

Unfortunately I was of the same belief as the gardener who chopped them up for 35 years as the ones I was finding were nothing like the fat things you see on the internet.Mine are much thinner and pale orange.So in desperation to find out if the creatures I was encountering were friend or foe. I rang a gardening program on Hereford and Worcester radio.The expert gave me this advice if they scamper away with speed their normal friend.

Gardeners' World Web User 05/02/2011 at 18:06

The tiny specimens here in the UK are harmless, quite unlike their cousins in my native Barbados that can grow up to eight inches or so in length and half an inch in width. These fast moving 'monsters' have a venomous, most painful sting and rightly deserve the crush of a blunt instrument or the afore-mentioned spade treatment.

Gardeners' World Web User 07/02/2011 at 19:39

Shame on the folk who kill these geophilids!! Mind you, they do indeed look like what you would expect a wireworm to look like!

Gardeners' World Web User 12/02/2011 at 09:59

I HAVE RAISED BEDS, LAST YR I GREW POTS, RUNNERS AND SALAD PRODUCE. BUT COULD I PLANT CARROTS AND PARSNIPS IN THEM?, AND WHAT COULD I USE TO GROW BTWEEN PLANTS TO DISTRACT UNWANTED PESTS LIKE CARROT FLY?. I MUST ALSO SAY THAT TOO SQUASH ANY INSECT IS FOLLY, EACH ONE IS PART OF FOOD CHAIN, WHICH HELP GOOD INSECTS AS WELL AS BAD.

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