Poison Ivy, Millipedes, and Potter Wasps Q&A

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Interesting questions came into the Caldwell Extension Center this week. I’d like to share three of them with you. I hope you find these questions and their answers helpful.

Question: What is the best way to get rid of poison ivy that’s growing around my well house?

Answer: Mowing, hand pulling, or using a weed eater are all good options for anyone that is not allergic to poison ivy’s urushiol oils. Poison ivy will not live where it is constantly being mowed. However, for those that are allergic, mowing, hand pulling, and weed eating are not realistic options.

Another option is grazing animals. Goats, sheep, and cattle will all preferentially graze poison ivy. Animals will select it and graze it before consuming most other forages.

poison ivy

Most people know the saying for poison ivy, “leaves of three let it be”. (photo Seth Nagy)

Poison ivy will not survive if grazing animals can reach the leaves. It is interesting to note that grazing animals, as well as animals in general, are not allergic to poison ivy.

Herbicides are also an option. The herbicide label tells where it can be used and what restrictions or caution the applicator should take when applying the product. One herbicide option is a product with the active ingredient glyphosate. Glyphosate was originally marketed by Monsanto as “RoundUp”. This product is now marketed by many companies under many brand names.

Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide that is an appropriate choice to use around a well house. This product can be applied as a spray or it can be applied as a wiper or sponge application. A wiper application is where a more concentrated solution of glyphosate is applied or “painted” onto the leaf surface of the plant to be controlled. There are directions on the product label how to mix the product for a wiper application.

Another option is a herbicide cocktail with the active ingredients of triclopry and 2,4-D. This selective herbicide was originally marketed by Dow AgroSciences as Crossbow. This herbicide can now be found marketed by many companies under many brand names. Ortho was the first company to offer the active ingredient triclopry in a homeowner version called “Poison Ivy And Brush Killer”. Triclopry is a very good brush killer that will control poison ivy. This can be applied around a well house. It can be applied as a spray and also as a wiper or sponge application. Always read and follow the directions on pesticide products.

Question: Is this worm I found in my house from my new kitten?

Answer: No. This worm is actually a millipede with the scientific name of Apheloria tigana. This millipede is native to North Carolina and Virginia and was first named by the famous biologist Ralph Vary Chamberlin in 1939.

Millipedes are common occasional pests that sometimes invade buildings, particularly during extreme dry or wet weather. Millipedes do not bite, sting, or transmit diseases. If these creatures find their way inside your home, they are just there by accident.


This worm is actually a millipede (photo Seth Nagy)

Millipedes are attracted to dark, cool, moist environments that are rich in organic matter, such as compost piles, heavily mulched areas, or rotting logs. Millipedes usually go unnoticed because they live in these relatively hidden habitats. Millipedes are scavengers, feeding primarily on decomposing vegetation.

Millipedes typically enter a house under door thresholds, expansion joints, and through the voids of concrete block walls. Millipedes typically survive indoors for only a few hours because of the relatively low humidity.

If you find a millipede in your house, the best solution is to pick it up and put it back outside. Remember to wash your hands after handling insects.

Question: I have found a few of these wasp looking insects in my house. What are they?

Answer: These are called potter wasps. They are a solitary wasp and a close relative of the mud dauber. Potter wasps are named because they construct small (1″ inch) balls of mud in which they lay their eggs.

potter wasp

The adult potter wasp is a solitary beneficial insect closely related to the dirt dauber. (photo Seth Nagy)

wasp home

Potter wasps usually build their nests on tree branches, but they sometimes construct their “pot nests” inside homes. The larva that developed in these particular nests have left their protective mud home. (photo credit ask.extension.org)

Potter wasps put caterpillars in these mud nests for their larvae to eat. It is for this reason they are considered beneficial insects.

For answers to your agricultural questions, call the Caldwell County Extension Center at 828-757-1290 or visit us online anytime at //caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu.