Monday, October 29, 2018

Bumble Bee Millipede

While not native to Missouri, the Bumble Bee Millipede (Anadenobolus monilicornis) is an interesting invertebrate I thought worth sharing. I have a friend who lives in south Florida, she shipped me a few of these, and another species, to use in the insect and spider programs I do with children at the Nature Center where I work.

Bumble Bee Millipedes, also called Yellow-Banded Millipedes are native to the Caribbean and parts of South America and made their way into South Florida via exotic plant shipments. They are well established in Florida, but cause no real issues for the environment. Homeowners may find them a bit of a nuisance when large numbers of them show up in their basements or other parts of their property. Heavy rains and the moisture left behind will often bring these millipedes out in large numbers. Once inside your home the millipede won't last long as it will dry out quickly from lack of proper moisture. It is not uncommon to find them outside around foundations and in your gardens or along walkways, walls and in your compost pile.

They are detritivores and feed on decaying plant and animals matter. They are estimated to consume as much as 10% of leaf litter in a given habitat, as well as fallen fruit, seeds, mushrooms, feces, and dead invertebrates. They rummage around in leaf litter, under logs and other woodland micro-habitats looking for food, once consumed they turn it into nutrient rich pellets they expel. These fecal pellets are absorbed into the earth creating organically rich soil perfect for plant life to thrive.

These little millipedes are easily recognized by their distinct dark brown or black, and yellow banded coloring, red antennae and red legs. They may reach lengths up to three inches. Like all millipedes they have two pairs of legs per body segment, which has earned millipedes the nick-name of "1,000-leggers."

Determining whether or not you have a male or female millipede in hand might not be as hard as you think. Even though they look alike, males have sexual organs located where the 7th body segment legs should be. If you count 7 body segments back from the head and the "legs" look shorter, or odd in someway compared to the other legs, chances are you are holding a male. These external reproductive organs help the male transfer sperm directly to the female as they face each other. They may remain locked together for long periods of time. Once the female is mated, she will create a small nest to deposit her eggs. She remains with the eggs to guard them from potential predators. Once hatched the newly born millipedes will appear similar to their adult counterparts, with the exception of leg count. Millipedes are born with one pair of legs per body segment. Through molting and growing they will eventually develop more legs.
Young millipedes are fed a diet of fecal pellets from their mother for a period of time before they begin foraging on their own.

Millipedes have a few defensive strategies up their proverbial sleeves, of which there would be many, if they had them. If harassed they will form a tight coil that protects their delicate underside and legs. They may secrete a substance that tastes bad to anything that might want to eat them. This substance will burn your eyes, so don't rub them after handling a millipede! They may also vomit the contents of their stomach which can stain skin and be very difficult to wash off and remain with you for several days. Birds and monkeys have learned to utilize the millipedes natural defenses to their advantage. They will grab a millipede and crush it, then rub the secretions all over their fur or feathers. This affords them protection from biting insects in a form of insect repellent.

These small, yet colorful, millipedes make excellent program animals. They do not bite, or sting. They move slowly and just by their sheer nature are not intimidating or scary. They are great additions to a compost pile and help break down the organic matter within. Not to mention they are just plain cool to look at, watching all those legs moving in unison is mesmerizing.


  1. I think they are more alarming crawling on you.

    1. I guess I can see that....all those legs can be a bit creepy when moving on your skin.....I find them fascinating!