Millipedes are on the move

Millipedes are small invertebrates that spend most of their time hidden away. They only come out when the ground is moist, as to do so at other times would lead to them drying out and dying.

Millipedes can be identified by their legs – they have two pairs of legs to most body segments. They never have a million legs, but they still have a lot.

The most common millipedes in the bushland are an introduced species, the Portuguese Millipede, Ommatoiulus moreleti, and the native Marri Millipede, Antichiropus variabilis (pictured above).

The Portuguese Millipede is black and looks smooth and can also be found around and inside houses. The Marri Millipede is brown and looks like a string of beads and rarely leaves the bushland. Both are about 4cm long.

The Marri Millipede lives in and eats the leaf litter under Marri trees (those are the trees with the big honky nuts). It can sometimes be seen wandering around during, or soon after, rain.

During dry conditions, like over summer, the Marri Millipede buries itself in the soil. These millipedes have been found 2 metres below the surface. Given that they are so small, and don’t have feet designed for digging, how did they get there?

To protect itself from predators, and over-enthusiastic mates, the Marri Millipede can release hydrogen cyanide. While a repellent in the open, it can prove fatal if the millipedes are kept in enclosed spaces – like a lunchbox.