- Author: Maureen Clark
These creatures are good. While I'm working away in the underbrush, I frequently run across them. Most species are not aggressive and curl up when disturbed. They like to hide under rocks, logs, and leaf matter where it is damp and dark. Rarely do they cause plant damage, it is not necessary to control them. They help in the decomposition of rotting organic matter. They eat moist leaf clutter, fungi, and decayed plant material. They plow through the earth and aerate the soil. They live underground whereas pill bugs/sow bugs live above ground.
The three principal species found in California are the small brown common millipede (Diploiulus luscus), the bulb millipede (Nopoiulus minutus), and the greenhouse millipede (Orthomorpha gracilis). A few other species like to hunt at night, eating spiders, invertebrates, and other insects.
Millipedes don't bite, but they can secrete a liquid benzoquinone that can irritate the skin or burn the eyes. (Capuchin monkeys in Venezuela have been observed rubbing themselves with millipedes because the millipede's secretions work as a natural mosquito repellent.)
Millipedes are Arthropods. In the class of Diplopoda. Millipedes do not have a thousand legs. Their legs come out from the bottom and have two – four pairs of legs per segment. Each double-legged segment is a result of two single segments fused together. Their heads have one pair of seven-segmented antennae. They breathe through little spiracles on the sides of their bodies. Millipedes have cylindrical bodies, Totally tubular! Right!?!
Millipedes deposit their eggs during spring and summer in the soil, either singly or in small batches. Fun fact, the mother lays her fertilized eggs in her own feces. These hatch into small versions of the adult. They molt their outer skins 7-15 times and increase their length by adding additional segments to their bodies. It can take several years before they reach the adult stage.
March my little ones!