All About the Giant Millipede
The giant millipede is known by various names, often incorrectly spelt as “milipede” it also commonly referred to as a “jungle train” or in the case of the Giant African Millipede (Archispirostreptus gigas) a “Chongololo.” There are some millipede facts that we should deal with before discussing what great pets giant millipedes make…
Does a millipede have a thousand legs?
The millipede in fact typically has less than 300 legs, with the leg count varying from species to species. The Giant Millipede can get up to ten inches in length, and 400 legs. That said the longest on record was said to be 15 inches, and incredibly rare species Illacme plenipes can have 750 legs. But one thousand legs – no.
How does a millipede walk?
Millipedes do not move one foot forward at a time – they move five or six in unison.
What is the difference between a millipede and centipede?
Once you see a few millipedes and centipedes side by side you will realize how easy they are to tell apart. Millipedes have two pairs of legs per segment, whereas centipedes have just one pair per segment and move far more rapidly. On the millipede’s body the first segment after the head does not have any legs, and the next few segments just have one set of legs, but after that it is double all the way. Rather than run away like a centipede, a millipede will evade predators such as scorpions and toads by curling in a ball.
Millipedes as Pets
When people think of millipede pets, they usually refer to giant millipedes, although there are 10,000 species of millipede around. The common characteristic amongst all these species is the two pairs of legs per body segment. Typically they are black or dark red, and with their slow movement and herbivorous nature make good pets. They are poor sighted animals, and some species have lost their sight all together.
The Millipede’s Home
A tank with 10 centimeters of soil depth and around 50×30cm in terms of area is ideal for your pet millipedes (i.e. a 10 to 15 gallon tank will do the trick). As long as the habitat you create meets their love of burrowing then they will be sure to be happy. Up against a glass tank you may be able to see some of their engineering skills in building tunnels, and it is thought by scientists that they use their wave motion to reinforce the tunnel as they move through it.
Coming from Africa, these creatures will need heat pads to keep their home warm at around 26 degrees centigrade. The great thing is that you’ll only need to clean out the tank once a year if you keep it humid. If you find that the heat pad is making the substrate dry out, then you need to dial down the temperature – it is all about maintaining humidity to keep your millipede comfortable, and they can live for ten years if you get it right.
One important thing to note is that chemical free compost should be used, and you will want to have a top layer of leaves.
A diet to feed a thousand feet!
Actually all it takes is some decaying sycamore and oak leaves with moss for dessert to keep a thriving specimen. For a treat you can provide small pieces of fruit and vegetable, and in terms of drinking you will just need to make sure that the leaves that you place over the soil are sprayed (these insects secrete onto leaves to moisturize them). Some recommend a shallow dish of water, but if you go this route ensure that it is indeed shallow. One tip for feeding is to freeze the food first – if you don’t then you may just find that you have more than millipedes in your colony, and it may not be a good balance.
Giant African Millipede
If a millipede is curled up for an extended period they are likely molting and should not be handled during this time. If they are curled up for a short period they are either sleeping or frightened. Take time to tame your millipede as some species excrete fluids when they feel threatened. These are both pungent and a possible irritant. If you do have this fluid excreted on your hands then wash them thoroughly, in fact as a matter of good practice you should wash your hands anytime after you handle your millipede.
Sexing and Breeding
One of the most interesting millipede facts is that male millipedes enjoy the benefits of a few pairs of gonopods, which are modified legs used to transfer sperm to the female. You will see these special legs on the seventh or eighth segment of the body, or you may miss them as the male sometimes keeps them hidden – either way it is a clear distinction between male and female. With regards to breeding you should just leave the millipedes to get on with it and soon you will see lots of tiny millipedes emerge and shed through multiple stages to the giants of adulthood.