Earlier this year I encountered a rather common many-legged beast, a type of millipede I had seen innumerable times before. Back then I pondered its precise identification due to the plethora of similar creatures sharing many of the same traits. But now I’ve finally concluded the exact species of those pedestrian monsters as well as this newest visitor.
My prior confusion notwithstanding, I easily recognize the previous species as Greenhouse Millipedes (Oxidus gracilis). But don’t be fooled! Although found throughout the lower 48 states of the U.S., the Greenhouse Millipede bears an uncanny resemblance to Asiomorpha coarctata, an introduced Asian species now meandering its way across the states, but that tiny beast isn’t as prolific as Greenhouses. It’s the latter species that I discovered this time.
I normally see a vast number of millipedes beginning in spring. They tend to be everywhere—and all of a sudden. One day I’ll walk outside and find dozens of them loitering about, scaling the walls, marching along the fence, and covering the ground like living carpet.
What docile creatures, too! Pick one up and you can expect it to carry on with its business as though undisturbed. Pester one, however, and they will eventually give you the typical millipede reaction: curl into a spiral of legs and body parts.
By summer, though, their numbers dwindle, although they do not disappear entirely. The herd simply thins, methinks.
Of course they have a litany of voracious enemies vying to eat them, from frogs to spiders to lizards to birds to snakes. I’ve witnessed the demise of far too many of them to think their large initial population is anything other than an evolutionary ploy to ensure the survival of their species. With so many of them milling about, an adequate number will surely survive to give life to the next generation.