Black centipedes attacking garden worms

Discussion in 'Gardening for Backyard Biodiversity in Canada' started by Justine M, Jun 3, 2011.

  1. Justine M

    Justine M Active Member

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    Hi there,

    Hoping you can offer insight. I have read that centipedes are vegetarians and that it is the millipedes that are the carnivores, but I am witnessing lots of assaults on worms of all sizes (1 inch to 7 inches) by fat black centipedes. I am a huge fan of those worms so it's stressing me out to see them being attacked. How common is that here in the PNW? The bed that is the scene of these crimes (!) is a raised one with lots of strawberry plants and lettuce seedlings that keep disappearing. (Also being eaten by those black villains?) I am submitting to this group hoping to get your take on whether I should let those centipedes continue with their rampage (are they good for the soil?) or should I relocate them to the back alley?

    Thanks!
     
  2. togata57

    togata57 Rising Contributor

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    Horrifying! And I always thought of Vancouver as being such a lovely, pleasant place.

    Do you have photos of the protagonists? I think that positive IDs would be a good idea before any action is taken.

    Wonder what has caused this warfare. If the centipedes and worms have coexisted before now, something must have changed to cause this behavior.

    I thought that centipedes were the more aggressive arthropod...???

    Recommend this excellent site:
    http://bugguide.net

    I'd say that, as hair-raising as it is to witness, that this situation should be allowed to resolve itself. How many worms/centipedes are involved? If it's hundreds, well maybe intervention is an idea...if fewer, I think that any (chemical) remedy might do more damage than good.

    Reminiscent of a scene from Microcosmos!!!
     
  3. Justine M

    Justine M Active Member

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    I'll try to get a photo of these creepy crawlers.

    I checked the garden this morning and the formerly 7 inch worm just had one inch sticking out of the ground. It got pulled into the garden bed by the centipede.(Ick!)

    Fortunately I haven't seen more than one at a time. I just notice that seemingly every time I go to check on my little lettuce sprouts, there is a worm writhing and wiggling in a fast, spasmodic way. Then upon closer scrutiny I see the black villain on one end of the worm. I try to rescue the worm when it seems to have life (by placing it in a different part of my yard), but yesterday's 7 incher was quite lifeless when I came upon the crime scene. Sad.

    I wouldn't use chemicals but I would fling that black bug over the fence. I was just so surprised to witness this since I've never heard of such a thing, nor seen earthworms being attacked by anything other than birds before.

    To be continued...
     
  4. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    >I have read that centipedes are vegetarians and that it is the millipedes that are the carnivores<

    This is backwards.
     
  5. Justine M

    Justine M Active Member

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    I got the following info from Wikipedia:

    Centipedes are predators and a key trait is a pair of venom claws or "forcipules"; centipedes are a predominantly carnivorous taxon.

    Millipedes on the other hand are detritivores (love that word!) and slow moving and most millipedes eat decaying leaves and other dead plant matter. It goes on to say that a few species are omnivorous or carnivorous, and may prey on small arthropods, such as insects and centipedes, _or on earthworms!_ Missed that part the first time I read it. Obviously the one in my garden bed is of that worm eating group...

    Still wondering if they trump worms for benefits to the garden... but I doubt it. Next one I see is persona non grata. It's probably the pest eating my lettuce seedlings (at pin head size state) too! I've just never heard of centipedes attacking worms before and wondered if anyone else has witnessed in their garden beds.
     
  6. Lysichiton

    Lysichiton Active Member

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    Hey, hang-on. I suspect these may be Ground Beetle or Rove Beetle larvae. Gram for gram they are the fiercest predators in my garden, & I have seen them do exactly what you describe. Apart from worms, they also attack almost anything else crawling around on the ground. I have already seen them this summer (???) in my garden. Check out the pics & descriptions on the net. I think you will find that they are much more likely candidates than Millipedes or Centipedes.

    I leave them alone, since 1.I like to think they clean-up other bugs that may be harmful. 2. I like beetles crawling around my garden 3. They BITE. There's 3 good reasons not to mess with them as far as I am concerned.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2011
  7. Justine M

    Justine M Active Member

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    The images that come up on the internet when I search "ground beetle larvae" aren't exactly like the insect I saw (I don't remember a mouth or legs for that matter!)... but I intend to take a photo and post next time I see it. It's been a few days now that I haven't seen it in the garden. I think it's STILL feasting on the 6 inch worm it pulled into its lair!

    That said, if it is a ground beetle larvae, I'd have to agree with your reasoning for letting them stay put!!!
     
  8. Lysichiton

    Lysichiton Active Member

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  9. Justine M

    Justine M Active Member

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    That looks like what I was witnessing! So it's not a centipede at all but a black beetle larva (do you know what kind of beetle?)... haven't seen it attacking any more worms since I posted the above, however there is a dead worm in my veggie garden, probably a victim that wasn't completely pulled down into the beetle's lair. Super creepy. As you said, not for the faint of heart. Poor worms...
     
  10. Lysichiton

    Lysichiton Active Member

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    As I recall there a large number of species of ground beetles & rove beetles. So who knows? It's could well be one of those black shiny ones that you find lurking in the leaf litter & compost (assuming you have these good things in your garden)
     
  11. Justine M

    Justine M Active Member

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    I'll have to keep an eye out for it. I saw the attacks near the strawberry patch so probably prime real estate?
    :-)

    I'll report back if/when. Thanks Lysichton!
     
  12. Dusty Feller

    Dusty Feller Member

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    Thnxs for the link that is exactly what's going on with me here on Van Isl same reason I am at the forums today, So are these beneficial in the garden despite the worm casualties or should I manually remove them when seen? I don't spray anything other then liquid seaweed & molasses.
     
  13. Lysichiton

    Lysichiton Active Member

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    Beetle larvae - considered good guys. Leave them to eat the (mainly) harmful insect larvae at soil level & just below.
     

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