FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Experts said the millipedes infesting south Florida are harmless to humans and serve as both mosquito repellant and a recreational drug to monkeys.
Bill Kern, an entomologist with the Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center of the University of Florida, said the millipede infestation began about 10 years ago in Miami-Dade County, a few years after they first appeared in Key West, and the small creatures have been spreading ever since, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Monday.
The millipedes, which are arthropods rather than insects, are often found in homes, but the dry conditions of the indoors usually lead to their deaths within days.
"The inside of a home is almost always too dry for a millipede to survive," Kern said. "When they come in the house they're usually doomed."
Kern said the millipedes are actually beneficial to the environment due to eating mulch and dead leaves.
"They are beneficial," Kern said. "They help to break down organic matter into a form that can be consumed by plants."
G.B. Edwards, an entomologist with the Division of Plant Industry at the state Department of Agriculture in Gainesville, said the millipedes are also put to good use by monkeys, which rub the creatures on their fur to use their defensive chemical as an insecticide. He said the monkeys also eat the millipedes as a hallucinogen.
"They eat them," Edwards said. "I wouldn't recommend a person doing that."