Giant African Millipede

The Giant African Millipede is a rather common resident in most gardens, cities and Game Reserves mostly seen after or before rains. This is mostly due to the fact that they lack the waxy outer layer on their exoskeletons and in dry conditions lose much of their water through the surface on the skin.

Millipedes starts of as small diplopods with only 6 legs, and as they grow it adds segments to the body. Fully grown millipedes has 2 pairs of legs per segment and can have anything between 80 and 120 legs as adults. When millipedes feels threatened they can roll themselves into a ball, tucking the head tightly into the middle for protection. They also secrete a type of Hydrogen Cyanide as further deterrent and this may be strong enough to stain your skin yellow  or orange. A fairly large millipede can secrete enough of this toxin to actually kill a bird or small mammal about the size of a chicken.

Males can be identified as they have a modified pair of legs on the 7th segment which are used to pass on the spermatophores to females of their species.

Millipedes are most commonly seen close to rhino middens, decaying plant matter and moist areas, so keep a look out for these in your area.

Richard Venter

Snr Ranger – Southern Camp

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