Characteristics of all Types of Millipedes, Their Natural Habitat, and Feeding Habits
Are you scared every time you set your eye on a millipede? Sick of their suspicious coiling as if they are up to something? Here are the types of millipedes and the reasons for their fishy behavior.
Giant arthropods are harmless and nearly blind. Millipedes have a tough exterior exoskeleton and many tiny enjoined legs. They strongly resemble crustaceans and insects. These arthropods have elongated slim bodies made of numerous segments, covered by an exoskeleton. Each section holds two pairs of legs.
Most millipedes have glands along the body that produce toxic substances to keep off predators. They are mostly dark colored except for a few toxic ones with a bright coloring.
Table of Contents
Common Millipede Species
Majority of millipedes in America are cylindrical shaped and drag their movement. Most of them live in wet forests and moist gardens or shaded bushes.
- Cylindroiulus Caeruleocinctus
This is a large kidney shaped millipede (20 to 30 mm). It has a delicate blend of brown-black color with brass-like edges on the segments. It has no rear pointing on the telson. Mostly found near residential areas with leafy vegetation including small-forested areas and bushy compounds as well as parks.
White legged Snake Millipede (Tachypodoiulus niger)
This millipede grows up to 25 mm. It has a banded appearance with pale brown segments and darker spots along the sides. The eye area has a black facade across eyes and a light tail end. It mostly hides in moist gardens and woodlands and gardens, rotting wood or leaf waste. Snake millipedes feed on decomposing leaves.
The tubular black body holds its contrasting white tiny legs. It has a pointed rear projection pointed away from the telson. Its black body and contrasting white legs (about 100 of them) make it possible to recognize the white legged snake millipedes. It also has a protruding rear segment.Millipedes feed on decaying matter such as algae and vegetation.
This type of millipede mostly lives in woodlands, in gardens, and anywhere with rotting foliage, under rocks where it can hide. It eats dead plant matter and algae. It’s useful in the backyard as it returns decaying plant matter to the soil.
- Striped Millipede (Ommatoiulus sabulosus)
This species is a cylindrical, plump, and brown millipede easily identified by the ginger stripes along its segmented body. This is one of the largest millipede species. It is mostly found in sandy areas during the day and it likes to hide under old logs and at the top of trees or internal walls.
The giant millipede belongs to the Spirostreptida order. Most of these creatures live in tropical as well as arid coastal areas of East Africa, along the shorelines, in moist bushy areas and mostly seen during the rainy season. Large millipede grows up to approximately 12 inches in length. Most of them live up to five years old; they feed on decaying plant matter.
Scientifically known as Archispirostreptus Gigas, one of the largest millipedes in the world is the giant African millipede. It grows up to (38.5 cm) 15.2 inches in length, and (67 mm) 2.6 inches in circumference. On average, it has 256 legs, though the number of legs varies according to each creature.
Are millipedes poisonous? No, they are not, but many species have glands that produce toxic fluids when touched. They irritate the skin and can cause lasting skin bruising. Further details can be found here.
The giant millipede mostly dwells in East Africa, Mozambique and the wetlands of South Africa.
The African arthropod is black and lives up to 7 years maximum. Giant millipedes get free grooming services from small mites in exchange for protection and free meals, providing a unique symbolic relationship between the two animals. Mites like to crawl on the millipedes’ exoskeleton and between their tiny legs.
Found in North America, the American giant millipede (Narceus americanus) grows up to 10 cm, and take a cylindrical shape, unlike the regular sized flat-shaped millipedes.
They are dark red-brown or black with a red line on the sides of each segment. They have two pairs of legs on the segments, rather than a pair on each segment. However, the first four parts hold a single pair of legs, and the subsequent abdominal segments have two pairs of legs. Like their African cousins, American Giant millipedes eat decaying plant matter.
Due to their size, American giant millipedes mostly live in forested areas in decaying logs and on wet forested leaf litter. They also roll up into a tight ball to evade predators or secrete poisonous liquids. They do not bite, and cannot crawl faster like their lethal biting cousins, the centipedes.
North American Millipedes overstay in rotting logs or underground soil and come to the surface in spring to mate.
Order Polydesmida – Flat-Backed Millipedes
The Polydesmida class forms the largest type of millipedes, with nearly 3,500 species. The term Flat-Backed millipedes derive from the keels on each body segment. These millipedes vary in length ranging from 3mm-130mm. They have no eyes and contains small pairs of legs from the lower body sections.
Most of the larger poly-desmids change their body color to warn predators of their poisonous liquid secretions. Flat–backed millipedes are mostly found in rotting leaves, which also make up for most of their dietary needs.
Different Colors of Millipedes
Most North American millipedes come in diverse colors, depending on the geographical location. Desert millipedes have dark brown bodies; the dangerous ones don a bright orange or yellow/bright orange tan. Some have black stripes or red stripes on their sides.
In America, they come in many different colors and include a unique line of a few giant millipedes that dwell in the desert instead of the typical tropics environment.
Spread out across North Africa, millipedes come in an assortment of colors. The bright colored ones often glow at night to warn predators of the looming danger if approached.
- Brown/Black Millipedes
Mostly found in North America. They are docile, live in seclusion in decaying trees, bushes, and sometimes found in residential backyards.
- White/Red Millipedes
These brightly colored species have unusual anosmatic coloring that acts as a defensive mechanism to warn predators of the toxic substances released when touched.
House and Garden Millipedes
Millipedes mostly resurface at night and hide beneath dark decaying objects during the day where it’s damp. They are harmless creatures, and some folks grow fond of them and prefer to keep them as garden or house pets. Garden Millipedes have little impact on our agricultural or social well-being. They do not bite, and their protective secretions cause little or no harm to humans.
Humans should tolerate millipedes, when possible. If they invade your compound to warrant removal, you may use non-chemical methods.
The safest way to discourage millipedes off your yard is to:
- Regularly sweep decomposing leaves and leaf litter as often as you can.
- Remove soil borders from your outer wall building and trim unwanted vegetation and young shrubs around the fence.
- Declutter your yard and discard old boxes and logs lying around the compound.
- Reduce thatch in your garden to discourage millipedes by clearing out dead leaves during the early fall.
- Within your home, millipedes die naturally because of the dry environment. When you find a millipede in your house, gently push it with a broom, and toss it out. Millipedes don’t attack humans when confronted, but they coil into a hard ball, making it easier for you to move it without necessarily killing it. If you move it to a dry area, it will eventually die.
- Seal all the huge cracks behind baseboards where wet floors may attract millipedes as hideouts within your home.
- Place a dehumidifier to sufficiently dry the dumpy areas.
How Millipedes and Centipedes work as a Team to Improve Your Garden
Unlike the harmless millipedes, Centipedes are dangerous carnivorous arthropods. They paralyze their prey with two pointed appendages, which also act as limbs.
Millipedes and centipedes play essential functions that enhance the soil in your garden:
- In the soil food chain, both the millipedes and centipedes make up as the first soil inhabitants and some of the most common earthly invertebrates.
- Their importance to the development of soil nutrients holds great significance to the stability of backyard lawns and gardens.
Millipedes play a central role, though a little less dramatic than the centipedes. If you live in an environment without the inhibition of earthworms in the soil, millipedes do fill up this significant role. They are dependable for 10 percent of decomposition of the leaf litter in your yard. Millipedes enhance the creation of microorganisms into nutrients that work in close collaboration to turn debris into rich soil.
Maintaining a dry atmosphere through the year will keep millipedes and other crawling arthropods away from your yard. Millipedes provide an abundance of soil and are crucial soil decomposers.
The cyanide-generating types of millipedes demonstrate their significance to the ecosystem. They form an essential part of humid ecosystems for their role in regurgitating decayed vegetation and cycling soil nutrients back into the ground. Diplopods influence direct decomposition by breaking leaf debris and indirectly moving microbial biomass.
To learn more about difference between centipedes and millipedes, see this page.
Tropical Ecosystems Management
Soil experts who study the influence of millipedes from across different environments all agree on the importance of millipedes in soil chemistry and the overall ecological cycle. Depending on the arthropods density in a given area and the mass leaf ratio, the process of recycling and decomposing improves the affected regions.
Soil microbial significantly increases with millipede density in any given area. The type of ground foliage and the overall population of millipedes affect the soil pH extensively; because of the direct effect on decaying leaf litter and the overall quality of the foliage.
The exploration of soil value shows that various types of millipedes with the help of soil fungi earthly warms, and insects all contribute to rich soil formation. They help by breaking down foliage and soil debris in tropical areas. However, millipedes have a small or no direct effect on microbial biomass.
Management of millipedes and other insects in your property may prove as the best treatment for crawling millipedes. These arthropods feed on the decayed matter; they may die sooner, or else seek shelter under decaying wood near your foundation, or hide under rotting cabinets in your bathroom or kitchen areas. Reduction of dampness helps reduce millipede numbers exponentially.
You can find further details of Millipedes Control here.