A substantial number of arthropod pests that frequently invade Texas homes can inflict painful and potentially dangerous bites and stings to humans. Some of these dangerous pests include scorpions, recluse spiders, southern black widows, yellow jackets, red-imported fire ants, native fire ants, and even Africanzied honey bees. Some arthropods that neither sting nor bite may inflict human injuries. For example, venomous caterpillars and blister beetles can cause injuries that warrant medical intervention, but millipedes are the most common indoor arthropod pests that can inflict injury without stinging or biting.
Puss moth caterpillars are just one of many caterpillar species that are covered in prickly spines that inject venom into the bloodstream when handled or even touched. Although residents often sustain stings from venomous caterpillars while performing yard work, they do not invade homes. It is also not uncommon for residents to sustain chemical burns after making contact with blister beetles that are commonly found in gardens. Blister beetles secrete a defensive fluid from their bodies that cause severe skin irritation, but luckily, they too are almost never found within homes. Millipedes, on the other hand, are common home-invading arthropods throughout the US, and they secrete an irritating fluid that causes burning and itching skin injuries. When accidentally rubbed into the eye, millipede secretions may cause redness, swelling, corneal damage, and even eye lesions.
While playing in his yard a few years ago, a toddler was hospitalized after a millipede sprayed its irritating defensive fluid into his eye, and this scenario is common across the US. Curious children are at high risk of sustaining millipede injuries due to their habit of readily handling arthropods that they encounter, and some medical professionals believe that millipedes should be categorized as “medically significant” arthropods. Most pest control professionals and medical professionals, however, consider millipedes nuisance household pests only. Millipedes invade homes when the soil they inhabit becomes too wet from heavy rainfall, or too dry from drought, and they are very common indoor pests in residential areas all over Texas.
Have you ever sustained a skin burn from a millipede’s defensive secretions?