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Centipedes and Millipedes

There are about ten common species in Britain and none is dangerous to man. All centipedes share two major characteristics: their elongate bodies are divided into many very similar segments and each segment bears a well-developed pair of legs. The head of the centipede is surrounded by two sharp, curved, poison claws and alongside, two small compound eyes is a pair of longish antennae.


About 30mm in length, the Cockchafer is often mistaken for a cockroach due to its size and shape. Found throughout the UK they are more common in the south, often seen flying at dusk from May to July. Sometimes called the May Bug because of the month they normally appear. The Cockchafer has a three year lifecycle. After mating the female digs about 20cms into the soil to lay her 10 to 20 eggs. The eggs hatch after 21 days and the larvae remain in the soil for a further two years feeding on roots. The larvae are white with a brown head and are equipped with a strong pair of pincers for chewing through roots. After this 2 year period they are about 5cms long and are ready to pupate in the soil. After pupation, the adult beetles emerge in October, but remain in the soil until the following spring. Although harmless, both adults and more significantly the larvae can cause damage to plants and crops.


Earwigs can become a nuisance because of their habit of hiding within leaves and feeding on soft plant tissue. The abdomen extends well beyond the wings, and frequently, though not always, ends in a pair of forceps-like cerci. With about 1,800 recorded species in 10 families, the order is relatively small among Insects. Earwigs are, however, quite common globally. There is no evidence that they transmit disease or otherwise harm humans or other animals, despite their nickname pincher bug.

Ground Beetles

The Ground Beetle is a very large family of beetles comprising over 360 in Britain alone. Ground Beetles become a pest when in the autumn the adult beetles migrate into the indoors in search of warmth and shelter. This occurs when suitable food plants surround the buildings.

Plaster Beetles/Fungus Beetles

Plaster beetles feed on moulds and fungi and require damp, high humidity conditions to exist. Many are found out of doors, beneath loose bark, amongst dying and rotting leaves, and frequently in stacks of sawn timber. They occur indoors wherever suitable conditions exist. About 35 species have been recorded in food storage and domestic situations in the UK.

Fungus Beetle is associated with damp conditions and the development of moulds and fungi. Commonly found in birds’ nests, amongst damp newspapers, food packaging and other materials in cellars and pantries. They frequently form part of the fauna in grain stores, especially on the surface of bulk grain after long damp autumn and winter.

Spiders (Class Arachnida)

The class Arachnida includes the spiders, harvestmen, mites and ticks. This whole grouping is distinguished from insects by having a body not divided into three sections (the head, thorax and abdomen of the insects) and in adult stage at least, by having eight legs. Additionally, the head is not furnished with sensory antennae and there are no larval or pupal life-cycle stages.

Spiders have colonised all environments in the world with the exception of salt water. Even in Britain we have many species of spiders in a range of environments some living on the tops of mountains and water spiders.

Silverfish and Firebrats

Common throughout the UK, foraging at night in bathrooms, kitchens and pantries where they may become trapped in sinks, baths, glass and china ware, since they cannot climb smooth or polished surfaces. By day they hide beneath loose floor coverings, behind wallpaper, skirting boards, bath panels and other similar places. Silverfish are seldom more than nuisances although they may, on occasion, reach unacceptable numbers. They are capable of damage by chewing papers and manuscript and fine textiles and leather. They may also invade packets of dried foods that have been stored in damp cupboards.

Firebrats are found in very warm or hot locations such as bakeries, cooking ranges and sometimes institutional heating systems. They are nocturnal, resting during the day in cracks and crevices in the structure, or nearby machinery. Firebrats feed mainly on starchy foods, but can digest fats and proteins. They may attack some fabrics but they are mostly found on flour, bread and residues in bakeries.

Wharf Borer

The larvae of these beetles feed on very wet, saturated timber only, were once common in the timber piles of the wharves and warehouses lining navigable rivers in the UK, many of which have now closed or been converted to housing or other uses. They may infest in wet, buried timbers, occasionally resulting in large scale emergence of adults within cellars or sub-ground floors the source of which is often difficult to detect. Long term leakage onto wooden floors from water pipes or central heating systems, and blocked air bricks which reduce under floor ventilation, can also produce conditions suitable for the larvae.


There are about 35 species of woodlice in Britain and some of these are of horticultural or agricultural significance, because they eat and damage plants. Some woodlice come indoors, especially during the cooler autumn and winter weather, and of these the commonest by far is the Garden Woodlice.


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