Tuesday, August 4, 2015
North American Millipede
Millipedes show up in our basement once in awhile that are about 1 inch in length and light tan in color. I recall one year after record amounts of rainfall we had literally hundreds of them creeping across the basement floor. Millipedes are attracted to moisture and it is common to find them in cellars, basements and along foundations of houses and other manmade structures. Narceus americanus however is a forest dweller and will be found in moist, deciduous woodlands among decaying logs and other organic matter on the forest floor.
The one pictured here was photographed in Tremont, TN on the Spruce Flats Falls trail at the Smoky Mountain Institute. My husband and I had hiked 1400 feet uphill for 1 1/4 miles to view the waterfall and on our way back down I spotted this millipede on the primitive trail after nearly stepping on it. I picked it up and placed it in the mosses and lichens along the side of the trail.
Despite the fact that they have so many legs, they are not known to be quick. But I must say this one moved much faster then I expected which made photographing it somewhat difficult. I kept having to catch it and place it back in position only to have it scurry off again before grabbing it, placing it back and lining up the shot again. After some patience and persistence I finally managed a few pictures and a couple of videos on my phone.
Millipedes are often long-lived creatures and may have a lifespan of more than 10 years. This species can live several years and will overwinter in leaf litter or old logs. They emerge in the spring to mate. Most millipedes will lay more than a hundred eggs after mating. From all the literature I read and after numerous internet searches it appears that this species only lays one egg. The female will eat some soil and defecate to form a nest of sorts and will lay a single egg within that nest that she will guard until it hatches. The newly hatched nymph will be a smaller, incomplete version of its mother with only 7 segments and 6 pairs of legs. It will gain a new segment each time it molts before reaching adult age. They reach reproductive age at about 2 years.
Look for them in woodlands all across the Eastern United States. These are unique, interesting and beneficial arthropods that are completely harmless to humans. They turn organic matter into nutrient rich materials that greatly benefit the soil and should be left alone and admired.