Millipede – What is a millipede?

Definition of a millipede

The millipede is a small organism that belongs to the class of diplopods. Let’s find out more about what a millipede is in order to better understand what are its main characteristics.

The millipede has a cylindrical body and moves by crawling slowly and steadily. As the name suggests, it has many legs, but usually less than a hundred. Millipeds can be made up of more than a hundred segments. There are about ten thousand species of millipedes on the planet, including about sixty in Canada.

The distinctive signs of the millipede

Dark brown in colour, the body of millipedes is made up of several segments, each with a pair of legs. The smallest are around 35mm. They thrive outdoors, more specifically in moist soils, under rocks, stones, etc., where they feed on decaying plants and wood. They mainly invade the basements of houses, but cannot live there very long due to the climate and the lack of food. Otherwise, in their natural wetland habitat, they can live for several years.

Millipeds can measure between two and thirty centimeters. In Quebec, they generally do not exceed ten centimeters. When the soil is sufficiently moist, the millipede is able to dig. When it feels threatened or in danger, it positions itself in a spiral and protects itself from attacks by ejecting secretions which can be very irritating.

Roles and nuisances of the millipede

The millipede is very useful in the decomposition of plant matter. It plays an important role in the formation of forest soil. As it rather lives outdoors, it is not used to invading houses. On the other hand, it can attack ripe fruit and destroy gardens. It should be avoided to handle it with bare hands, as its secretions can irritate the skin and cause itching. Millipedes are not very reassuring on the surface, and can be scary. He is nevertheless a pacifist being who prefers to hide in dark places.