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Biology: Millipedes are slow moving vegetarians, feeding on both decaying vegetation as well as live plant tissues. They are essentially harmless to humans in North America, while some species in South America are able to exude a cyanide-like spray from their bodies when disturbed. North American species do exude an unpleasant smelling secretion, and they also may lose body fluids as they die, causing staining on indoor surfaces. The secretion is a combination of irritating chemicals that may cause skin rashes on people and even be toxic to small animals. The larger species are capable of living up to 8 years, sometimes requiring up to 5 years to reach sexual maturity. Eggs are laid in the soil in batches of from 20 to 300 eggs, and newly emerged nymphs are very small with only around 7 body segments and only 3 pairs of legs. As they grow they add more sections and legs. In addition to the foul odor they can give off, millipedes protect themselves by rolling into a tight coil when disturbed, protecting the more vulnerable ventral parts.

Identification: The larger millipedes are elongate and cylindrical, getting up to more than 4 inches in length. The smaller garden millipedes are usually less than ¾ inch long and are more flattened in appearance. They all have 2 pairs of legs on each body segment, differing from the centipedes. There is a pair of short antennae.


Biology: One of about 7 species of pest earwigs in the U.S., the European Earwig is the most common. It has a simple life cycle, requiring 3 to 5 months to go from egg to adult, depending on temperatures. Adults generally live only about one year. Adults are capable of some flight. Earwigs feed primarily on plant material, but also are predators on many other insects.

Identification: Earwigs are most easily identified by the strong "pincers" at the hind end, as modifications of their cerci. These are used for defense, food capture, and some other uses. Wings on adults consist of the hind pair used for flight, and a very short front pair used as a cover for the folded hind wings. The European Earwig is distinguished from other U.S. species by having the second tarsal segment elongated under the first segment.


Biology: These are primitive insects that undergo simple metamorphosis, molting as much as 50 times before reaching the adult stage. The development to the adult stage can be anywhere from a few months to as long as 3 years, depending on the conditions it is living in. They generally live for several years. Both species feed on a wide variety of materials, including human foods, paper products, fabrics, or glue in books and wallpaper. They are common outdoors in woodpiles or fences. The firebrat is so named because it prefers a habitat of higher temperatures, preferably above 90 degrees, and they may be common in attics in the summer. These insects are both covered with scales, they are flattened from top to bottom, and are able to squeeze into tiny cracks to hide or to gain entry.

Identification: There are several species of silverfish, including some that closely resemble the firebrat. These are elongate insects with very long, thin antennae and with three long appendages at their rear end – a pair of long, thin cerci that project out sideways and a central, longer filament. Colors range from silvery gray to dark gray with darker lines running front to back on top, giving these insects common names such as “silver” fish or “four-lined” silverfish. Evidence of their presence commonly will be the black, pepper-like fecal droppings that they leave everywhere the roam. Attics often have a huge abundance of the feces lying on insulation or rafters. Evidence of their damage will be holes made by their rasping mouthparts.


Biology: The Cat Flea is a blood feeder as the adult, and a scavenger as the larva. The adults remain on the animals they feed on unless physically forced off, and may live up to a year. The female lays the eggs on the host animal and these eggs fall off to the floor or other surface below. The eggs hatch in a few days and the larvae begins to feed on organic debris it finds, but also must consume some dried blood in order to progress to the pupa stage. This blood is from the dried feces of the adult fleas, and it falls off the pets wherever they spend time. Under ideal conditions the time from egg to adult can be as short as 2 weeks, or it may take several months if there is no host activity to stimulate some of the pupa to hatch to the adult stage. The Cat Flea is a possible vector of bubonic plague, and it is a common flea species on raccoons and opossum, as well as the primary flea on both dogs and cats in the U.S.

Identification: All fleas are similar in appearance, as wingless insects with bodies flattened from side to side and with long hind legs for jumping. They are black to reddish black in color and have spiny legs as well as rows of spines along other body areas called “combs”. These combs are important for identification of the species. The genal comb is a row below the head, and the pronotal comb is a row behind the head, at the back of the pronotum. The Cat Flea has both combs, it has eyes present, the genal comb is horizontally placed, and the first two spines on the genal comb are the same length. These characters separate it from the similar Dog Flea. Flea larvae are rarely seen, but they are legless and whitish with a brown head, unless they have fed on fecal matter from the adults, in which case they assume a reddish color. They are covered with short hairs, and when disturbed are able to flip about violently in order to escape.

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