It’s been a while since we’ve done a creepy-crawly Creature Feature. Birds and mammals, move aside! This week we’re taking a look at the Yellow Spotted Millipede (Harpaphe haydeniana). This species of millipede is easily recognized by the row of yellow dots along each side of it’s body. Predators know these yellow spots too. They’re a warning sign that tells potential enemies to watch out–this millipede is toxic! This species is also known as the Almond-scented Millipede, which can give you a clue as to what kind of toxin it produces. Cyanide!
It sounds scary, but these gentle crawlers won’t harm a human. If you pick one up, it will curl into a ball and release an almond-scented cyanide gas. It’s not enough to kill a human, but make sure to wash your hands afterwards. It’s more than enough to kill most birds though, so this millipede has few predators.
You can commonly find these critters in redwood forest leaf litter. But if you want an extra-special millipede experience, head out at night with a black light flashlight. Millipedes, centipedes, scorpions, and spiders all glow under black light, making them easy to spot.
Photo: Phil Hagelberg on Flickr
wikipedia – yellow spotted millipede