Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Giant Millipedes as Bug Pets

Here you will learn about giant millipedes, sexing male and females, and how to care for these gentle veggie-loving giants. To know them is to love them.

My pedes Archie and Millie are sweetly affectionate and a bit shy with strangers but will warm up given time.


Allow me to introduce you to Archie. The pic above shows a very inquisitive Archie the male millipede. If you look closely at his legs, counting to where the 7th pair of legs should be, there is instead a pair of short knobby gonopods (gonopods are what make male millipedes male millipedes). Archie is an extrovert as far as millipedes go. He loves munching on cucumber slices and the occasional banana peel. He gets quite a lot of exercise moseying around his 10 gallon apartment. He's a little smaller than Millie whom we are getting to next.


Miss Millie (pic right) is quite a bit larger than Archie. She is also more timid and spends a lot of her day curled up under the leafy litter in the 10 gallon apartment she shares with Archie. If you look closely at her legs, counting down to where the 7th pair of legs should be, there is in fact a 7th pair of legs and no gonopods. Except in Millie's case, her left 7th leg is a little stump from an old injury. Fortunately she has plenty of other legs she can use to get around with! Female millipedes have their reproductive parts tucked away neatly inside their bodies.

Sexing Male and Female Millipedes 
As you would have guessed from reading about Archie and Millie above, it isn't all that complicated telling a male from a female millipede, especially if you're looking at a Giant Millipede! Males have a pair of knobby gonopods instead of legs on their 7th segment, while females have legs. It takes a little patience to wait for your millipede to get into just the right position for you to take a peek at his/her underside. Perhaps you could put your millipede into a glass fish bowl and examine it while it is crawling about inside (this stretches out its underside a bit better).

Millipede Home Sweet Home 
Millipedes love dark, damp and warm digs in leaf litter. Their home needs to be twice as long as their body length so they have plenty of space to explore and exercise. Mine seem happy in their 10 gallon glass aquarium. I placed a heating pad under one half of the tank and also covered that half of the tank with black plastic to keep it dark. They love hiding out there! I mist the tank daily with a spray bottle filled with water, and I cover the top of the tank with a piece of saran/cling wrap to keep humidity high inside the tank. High humidity helps the leaf litter to rot, which is great for my 'pedes as you will see next.

Feed Your 'Pedes 
Millipedes are detritivores, and munch on rotting leaves and well-rotted wood of most trees (except cedar). Get plenty of oak leaves and bark/wood the next time you take a walk in the park. Place these in a ziploc bag, freeze for a day to kill any other bugs, thaw out, then let your 'pedes have at it. The freeze step is important because the leaves and bark/wood may also harbor millipede enemies such as centipedes (which snack on millipedes). My 'pedes also love eating cucumber slices. They have surprisingly weak jaws and need soft food.

Breed Your 'Pedes! 
Obviously you will need a male and female millipede for this. They also need to be the exact same species of 'pede. It helps if you order your pair from the same supplier. I got mine from Wards Natural Science. You will need to give your 'pedes some privacy, and comfy conditions (see Millipede Home Sweet Home above). I can't help but sneak peeks every so often. They are so affectionate! In the photo below, Archie is whispering sweet nothings to Millie as they cuddle.

If you have any questions, or have suggestions on what you would like to see added here, I welcome you to email me!

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