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How to Care for African Giant Millipedes and Their Relatives

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Millipedes (Order Diplopoda) are among the most diverse yet least studied of all invertebrates.  There are enough millipedes to keep generations of fans happy – over 12,000 species have been described so far, and we know little about most!  Many species make hardy pets that adjust well to small enclosures and may even breed. All are quite intriguing – while working with arboreal South American millipedes at the Bronx Zoo, I was even involved in a mysterious “millipede emergency”…please see this article  for details.

Millipede

Photo uploaded to wikipedia commons by Bubba73 (Jud McCranie)

The following information can be applied to the commonly-kept African Giant Millipede (Achispirospreptus gigas) and many of the others that appear in the trade from time to time.  Several millipedes native to the USA, such as Narceus americanus, are also large and brightly-colored…all are ignored by zoos and deserve more attention from hobbyists.  Husbandry details will vary…please comment below for information on individual species. Read More »

2012’s New Species – Spiders, Roaches, Millipedes, Wasps – Which is your Favorite?

Trogloraptor marchingtoniHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Invertebrate enthusiasts have learned to expect the discovery of fantastic new species on a regular basis.  But even old timers such as I were shocked by some that came to light this past year. Large, claw-bearing Cave Robber Spiders, giant bio-luminescent roaches, brilliant arboreal tarantulas, neon-colored freshwater crabs, dive-bombing wasps…the list boggles the mind.  Today I’ll highlight a few that have entranced me; please post your own favorites (whether covered here or not) below.

Cave Robber Spider, Trogloraptor marchingtoni

The Cave Robber Spider, arguably 2012’s most “otherworldly” discovery, turned up in a place not known for hiding unseen species – southwestern Oregon.  In fact, not a single new spider has been described in the USA in the past 130 years.  Read More »

Invertebrate Health – Mites in Scorpion, Millipede and Tarantula Terrariums

Goliath BirdeaterHello, Frank Indiviglio here.   I’m often contacted by Arachnid and millipede owners who are concerned about the tiny white “specks” that they notice crawling about their terrariums and on their pets.  In almost all cases, the little beasts turn out to be relatively harmless Mites.  Mites are actually Arachnids, related to spiders and scorpions, and are unique in the incredible diversity they have attained – over 45,000 species have been described, with many more than that likely remaining to be “discovered”.  Read More »

Millipede Diets – Feeding the Giant African Millipede and its Relatives – Part 2

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  In  Part I of this article we looked at the importance of calcium, leaf litter and decaying wood in the diet of the African giant millipede (Achispirospreptus gigas) and its relatives. 

Research Needed

Few field studies have been made of millipedes in the wild, and we therefore know little about their exact nutritional needs.  Based on experience with related species, Mating Millipedesand in the hopes of providing as many nutrients as possible, I began offering African giant millipedes a wide variety of food items.  With the help of colleagues here and abroad, I eventually arrived at a diet that has allowed me to breed a number of native and exotic millipedes, and to maintain individual animals for over 10 years.

A Useful Millipede Diet

In addition to leaf litter and wood (please see Part I of this article), I feed most millipedes a mixed salad of yam, carrot, kale, cucumber, apple, banana and a wide variety of other fruits and vegetables.  To this is added moistened insect gut-loading diet and tropical fish flakes, both of which supply necessary protein, and a bit of Forest Tortoise Food.

San Francisco Bay Prepared Tortoise Food is a convenient means of providing a wide variety of nutritious foods, and is readily accepted by many millipedes. I use this as an occasional supplement, or mix it into the regular salad.  All food offered is powdered with Reptocal.

Further Reading

You can read more about giant millipedes and how they are kept at the Fort Worth Zoo.

Millipedes have an unusual defense mechanism, which, in some cases, is exploited by monkeys.  To read about my experiences and “close call” with millipede-generated cyanide, please see Millipede Emergency: the Dark Side of a Peaceful Terrarium Invertebrate.

We still have a lot to learn…please write in with your own millipede diets and any questions you may have. 

Thanks, until next time,

Frank Indiviglio

A Millipede Emergency – the Dark Side of a Peaceful Terrarium Invertebrate – Part 2

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Please see Part I of this article  for my “close call” with some cyanide-producing millipedes.  

Millipede Generated Cyanide and Poison Frogs

 Harpaphe haydenianaIt seems that millipedes of many types (there are over 10,000 species described to date) mix hydrogen cyanide, quinones, phenols and aldehydes with enzymes to create toxic defensive sprays and secretions.  In fact, tiny millipedes consumed by poison frogs (Dendrobates spp.) account for some if not most of the virulent skin toxins found in the skins of these colorful amphibians. 

Much like the frogs, millipedes seem to obtain at least some defensive chemicals from their diet.  As is true with poison frogs and related species, the toxicity of the millipedes’ secretions decreases over time when they consume captive diets. 

Monkeys and People Draft Millipedes to Battle Pests

The monkeys studied by my friend (please see Part I) were using the millipedes as a mosquito and parasite repellent.  The millipedes seemed quite valuable to the monkeys – so much so that the normally arboreal primates left the safety of the tress to retrieve any millipedes that had been accidentally dropped.

Certain millipede secretions also have antibacterial properties, and are being investigated for medicinal use…it is not known if monkeys exploit this aspect of the toxins as well.

Millipedes as Pets

Millipede secretions can irritate our skin, mucus membranes and eyes, so I always caution people to handle them with gloves and Millipedeto keep the animals away from one’s face.  Stressed millipedes confined in airtight containers have been known to expire from the concentrated effects of their own toxins.

That being said, millipedes make extremely interesting terrarium subjects, and a number breed well in captivity.  Next time I’ll cover the care of a few regularly available species. 

Further Reading

Millipedes have other defensive tricks as well.  A tiny millipede native to Florida uses detachable bristles to disable ants and other predators.  Read more here.

Until then, please write in with your questions and comments. 

Thanks,

 Frank Indiviglio

Harapahe haydeniana image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Folini
Millipede image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Esculapio

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