It’s hard to take millipedes in stride

It's hard to take millipedes in stride by Bob Karolevitz I'm a millipede killer!

Armed with my trusty M1 vacuum cleaner, I'm waging war against those tiny worms with many feet who have invaded our house like never before.

The state insect experts tell us that this is an unusual year for the strange little creatures who � like boxelder bugs � don't cause much trouble except "just being there."

The climate has favored reproduction, the entymologists say, so the creepy-crawly things are everywhere. They come out from under soggy leaves, compost piles or wherever they lay their eggs and immediately head for our place.

Millipede mothers must be special parents. They kick the kids out of the nest, knowing that it is one of the last things they'll ever do because they won't last through the winter. Meanwhile, their progeny will lay more eggs to keep the genre going.

I've looked at them pretty close, and I've got to admit that I can't tell a boy millipede from a girl millipede because all those feet don't wear blue booties or pink booties. I shouldn't worry, though, as long as the worms themselves can tell the difference.

Phyllis really dislikes millipedes. They come right after bats, mice and ants on her hate list. As small as they are, though � like maybe an inch and a half long � she should be able to take them in stride. But she doesn't.

"There's one now," she'll say with an emotional quiver in her voice. "Do something about it!"

When I go to pick up the tiny arthropod, it rolls itself up into a play-dead coil. That's its only defense as far as I can figure out. They're hard to get ahold of that way.

I could just squash them with my shoe, but they don't match the carpet!

If you've got a weird sense of humor like I have, you can think up lots of millipede minutiae. For instance, what if one had sore feet? Would it soak them in dozens of tiny basins?

Or what if several legs got out of step? Does a millipede drill sergeant count cadence?

And what if a foot goes to sleep? Do the others just drag it along?

I suppose it's a good thing that the life cycle of our brand of millipedes is just a single year, otherwise we'd be up to our knees in the peculiar little beasts. And thanks to our county agent, I can now reduce their numbers even more with my Shop Vac.

All I have to do is suck up each wee worm, and � according to the information I've received � they just shrivel up and die in the canister. It's a one-sided war, I confess, but Phyllis is happy, and I get a Good Conduct medal for my actions.

Actually, if the truth were known, I was going to keep one millipede for a pet, and I was going to name it Max. But I could never get it to fetch or shake hands (or feet). All it wanted to do was coil up and make like a possum.

I finally had to consign it to the vacuum cleaner, too.

© 2001 Robert F. Karolevitz

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