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What Species are my Millipedes?

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 26 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Millipede Pet Pet Trade Breed Mating

Q.

I bought 3 millipedes a few months ago - 1 female and 2 males, so I could breed them. The millipedes are about 3-5 inches long (fully grown says the pet shop owner) and are red with black legs. Do you know what species these millipedes are?

I see the millipedes mate every week but no eggs have been laid. I can not find any information on the web regarding keeping millipedes apart from your website; however, I would like more information on millipedes breeding if you can offer this advice.

(Prof Eddie Rickard, 3 December 2008)

A.

There are an awful lot of millipedes in the world – around 10,000 individual species, arranged in 13 orders and 115 families – and even looking at a live specimen, it can often be difficult to say exactly what it is. The situation is further complicated by the large number of common names used, especially in the pet trade, to describe the same species, so unfortunately it’s going to be difficult to suggest a name for your pets at a distance.

There are three candidates which spring to mind – but I wouldn’t like to be held to these as anything more than “possibles”!

  • The Madagascan Fire Millipede (Aphistogoniulus sp.) has a red body such as you describe – but its legs are usually red or even yellowish in colour, but there may be some variation.
  • Quite a few of the millipedes imported for the pet trade from Burma are orange/red, with dark brown or black legs – but unhelpfully they tend not to be given "standard" names, so there’s not much to go on there.
  • Desert Millipedes (Orthoporus sp.) are typically brown, but some populations can be quite red colour. They are native to the more arid parts of both North and South America, so if your pets like warm and dry conditions, they might just be Desert Millipedes.
Perhaps the best advice is to ask your dealer; since he/she knows they’re fully grown, the pet shop owner must have some idea of what species they are; not all millipedes stop growing at 5 inches!

Breeding Millipedes

The most obvious thing to do is check to see you really have the sexes you think you have; it can be difficult with young animals. Adult males have a specialised set of legs tucked into pouches on their seventh segment – noticeable as a bit of a gap between the other legs – which they use to transfer sperm packets to the female during mating. These structures are absent from both females and immature males – so it’s possible sometimes to confuse sub-adult males for females.

Once you’re sure you have males and females, the best advice is really to let them get on with it themselves, although you do need to be aware that some species breed more readily than others – and some almost never do, no matter how well you look after them.

Since you’ve seen them mating – which usually involves a fair bit of body curling and gentle nibbling by the male – if your females aren’t laying eggs, you might like to try making their environment a little damper and possibly a little warmer and make sure there’s enough suitable substrate for the eggs to be laid in. It’s also important that your pets have enough vitamins and minerals – especially calcium; deficiencies can sometimes cause problems with egg-laying. Sort this out and you could well soon be hearing the patter of thousands of tiny feet! Good luck.

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