European Import Millipede

2013 November 9

We found this millipede crawling up the side of the house on the morning of November 11, 2012. We’d left the porch light on that night to draw insects, but I don’t know if this one was actually attracted to the light or not – millipedes crawl on the side of our house all the time anyway.

It had pretty distinct dark/light banding running all the way down its body, and a dark “mask” running across its forehead from eye to eye.

Based on these features, I actually think that this is an identifiable millipede! I think it is Cylindroiulus caeruleocinctus, an accidental import from Europe and a member of a family of millipedes that would not be found in North America if it weren’t for humans moving around the soil that they live in.

Here’s another specimen, probably the same species, that I photographed on May 5, 2012. I rolled it over to see the legs.

Looking at the legs closer, we can see that they are in clusters of 4, with one cluster per body segment. This is characteristic of millipedes. Between the fact that they have twice as many legs per segment and tend to have more body segments, millipedes typically have way more legs than centipedes.

Since these were found way late in the fall, and also really early in the spring, I think it is safe to say that they are very cold-tolerant. In fact, I’m reasonably confident that it is the same species that I found crawling around on top of the snow back in 2011. It doesn’t get much more cold-tolerant than that!

3 Responses
  1. Carole permalink
    November 9, 2013

    Humm, think the ones in my yard have pink legs. Going to have to give them a good look. Thanks for the push to investigate.

  2. November 10, 2013

    I wonder, what’s the freezing point of their body fluids?

  3. November 12, 2013

    KT: I haven’t found anything specific to millipedes, but if I’m reading this article right:

    there are a lot of insects and other small arthropods using the “freeze avoidance” strategy that can prevent formation of ice in their bodies down to about -40 C (which is equivalent to -40 F). They probably aren’t able to be active this cold (and the millipede I found in the snow a few years ago wasn’t moving much), but at least they don’t die. Below this temperature, it becomes impractical to keep water as a supercooled liquid, and once the ice crystals form, they die.

    Then there are the ones that use the “freeze tolerance” strategy, where they actually do freeze solid without being killed. Those can take pretty much arbitrarily low temperatures, but generally aren’t the ones that can actually move around in cold weather.

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