Wednesday 17 August 2016

Apheloria virginiensis

Image: Marshal Hedin
Hey, look! It's a beautiful, brightly-coloured millipede! You know what that means, right?

That's right. Cyanide! Yaaaay!

Image: Patrick Randall
A. virginiensis is a rather striking and, with a length of at least 5 cm (2 in), fairly large millipede found all around the eastern side of North America.

Like other millipedes the world over, A. virginiensis prefers dark and damp places where the musty air carries the thick scent of moss and fungus, shed leaves and rotting wood.

Video: Isis4211

And, like other millipedes the world over, A. virginiensis feasts on the very same decaying plant matter. They're like vultures for plants, except we don't see it that way because we've never gotten round to taking the plant experience seriously.

Unlike many, though not all, millipedes, and unlike many other creatures who delve into the detritus of the forest, A. virginiensis is rather lovely to look at.

Image: Brian Henderson
There are several subspecies each with slightly differing markings, but they all have a whole lot black edged with vibrant yellow. They may also have a bit of red and perhaps a yellow stripe or two running straight down the middle.

This is, of course, a warning, principally to any nearby predator who might take it in their head to eat a harmless little millipede. For, like numerous other millipedes, A. virginiensis is armed with nasty cyanide compounds to ward off unwanted attention. It's not massively powerful, though if you touch one you should definitely avoid touching your eyes.

Also don't eat one. That's the main thing. A. virginiensis has no venomous sting or bite. They're simply saying, "I don't want you to eat me and, as it happens, neither do you."


TexWisGirl said...

it's beautiful, but thanks for the cyanide tip. :)

Joseph JG said...

Yup! Look but don't eat!

elfinelvin said...

Kudos to the guy that got down in the dirt to film this lovely bug. That was pretty neat to see. Thanks for sharing. :)

Joseph JG said...

Yeah, it takes quite some effort to get a millipede's eye view on things!

Unknown said...

Found one in my yard and I'm keeping it as a pet her name is
Milly 🐛

2buggy said...

Thanks for the cyanide heads up! I work in a child care and we have these crawling around- the kiddos love watching them but we will be extra careful!

Unknown said...

That's funny

Unknown said...

I have two, named Tina and Sausage

Unknown said...

i saw this species before on a trip to the mountains in Virginia i must of seen the worlds largest Apheloria virginiensis millipede because mine was 3-4 inches long and at least an inch thick and had the brightest red orange and yellow colors (along with the black exoskeleton) I was fishing on a lake with my cousin when i saw this he told me to find some worms as bait but instead i found this i ran away screaming thinking that it was an alien creature and that it was poisonous luckily i did run away eeeh cyanide.