We don’t often see millipedes because of their preference for secluded, moist sites where they feed on decaying vegetation and other organic matter. They are also more active at night, when the humidity is high. At this time of year, however, your chances of seeing a millipede are increased due to the fact that these invertebrates are migrating in search of overwintering sites. Adults overwinter in nooks and crannies that provide them with some protection. Many, like the one pictured, end up under loose bark.
Millipedes are harmless, so if you see one that accidentally found its way into your home, you can safely return it to the outdoors.
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Arthropods are invertebrates possessing an exoskeleton, a segmented body and paired jointed legs. Crustaceans make up one group of arthropods. Insects, spiders, ticks, mites, crabs, lobsters, woodlice, centipedes and millipedes are all crustaceans. Underneath a rotting log I recently discovered a crustacean resting right next to a clump of eggs. Not wanting to disturb the creature, I hazarded a guess as to its identity from what I could see. Its form narrowed it down to either a woodlouse (also known as sow bug, pill bug and roly-poly), centipede or millipede. Most centipedes have one pair of legs per body segment, eliminating them from the field of possibilities, for the photographed crustacean has two legs per body segment, as do millipedes and woodlice.
The next clue had to do with the eggs, which I presumed were produced by the creature right next to them. Woodlice have a “marsupium,” a chamber under the thorax which is filled with water in which their (often several hundred) eggs are brooded. Millipedes, on the other hand, lay from ten to three hundred eggs at a time, and deposit them on moist soil. In some species an adult remains to guard the eggs.
I cannot categorically say that today’s subject is a millipede and its eggs, but all signs point to it. If there is a crustacean expert among Naturally Curious readers, please confirm or correct my deduced identification!
This morning I discovered the exoskeletons of nine millipedes clumped together at the top of a rotting stump. They were covered with slug slime, with said slug still at the scene. Presumably its stomach was full of millipede innards. If anyone can explain this phenomenon to me, I would be most grateful!
Millipedes and centipedes, along with other arthropods (insects, arachnids and crustaceans), possess an exoskeleton, a segmented body and jointed appendages. All but a few of a millipede’s body segments have two pairs of legs whereas centipedes have one pair of legs per body segment. Most species of millipedes consume decaying vegetation, though a few are omnivorous or carnivorous. Millipedes do not move very fast, and cannot bite or sting; they defend themselves by coiling up tightly so as not to expose their underside and legs, or by emitting a toxic secretion or gas.