Millipedes are pretty incredible arthropods. These insects are known for having hundreds of legs and peacefully munching on decaying wood and leaf litter on the forest floor.
There are over 12,000 species of millipedes in the world, and fortunately for us nature lovers, quite a few of them make great pets!
Easy to care for, inexpensive, and colorful, we'll focus on 3 species that are well suited for the beginner.
The Smokey Oak Millipede, also known as Narceus gordanus, is sometimes called the Smokey Ghost Millipede. It's native to the southeastern US, where it inhabits areas with plenty of leaf litter and decaying wood. This millipede is large for a North American native, growing up to about 4 inches.
Scarlet Millipedes are a smaller (about 2.5""-3"") millipede that has naturalized in Florida. These guys were originally native to Malaysia and Indonesia. Trigoniulus corallinus is also sometimes called the rusty, red, or rusty-red millipede. It's a small and hardy species and really stands out in a vivarium.
Bumble Bee Millipedes (Anadenobolus monilicornis) have become naturalized in the southeastern US after being introduced from South America by the tropical plant industry. These small, hardy, and very colorful millipedes reach about 2.5"" in length and are very easy to care for.
Millipedes are easy to house. You'll want the enclosure to be at least as wide as the animal's length, and at least twice as long for optimal wiggle room. Keep in mind this is minimum housing size. Your pede will feed primarily on its substrate, so the more space for substrate the merrier. Plastic Critter Keepers or small tanks work well - even plastic storage containers can be easily modified with some air holes for use.
The single most important thing about housing millipedes is their substrate. Substrate acts as a place for the millipede to dig, eat, hide, drink, and live in. For a millipede, substrate = life.
Substrates should consist of a mix of soil, wood, and leaves. Josh's Frogs Milli Mix is specifically designed to be the best substrate for your millipedes. Over time, any substrate will be exhausted of calcium. Add a bit of Josh's Frogs MicroCal directly to the substrate to add or replenish lost calcium.
Keep the substrate about 4""-6"" in depth. Ensusre it is moist at the bottom and allow it to very slightly dry out at the top.
Humidity is a very important aspect of millipede keeping. Millipedes will drink from standing water - some people provide them with a small water bowl. But misting, providing a moist substrate, and providing fresh food will keep them hydrated. Critter keepers and other open-air products can dry out quickly, but do look a bit nicer than plastic shoe boxes. If you go with a cage with a lot of ventilation, you'll want to mist daily.
You'll be fine keeping your millipedes at room temperature. For most species, 72F to 78F is ideal. Supplemental heating in the form of a low wattage heat mat can be used if needed, but take care that it doesn't dry out your millipede's habitat too quickly.
Millipedes will primarily feed on their substrate - they love decomposing wood and leaves! This should make up the bulk of their diet, making it necessary to change out spent substrate (appears as little dirt balls) with fresh substrate on a regular basis.
You'll also want to provide the occasional fresh fruit or leafy greens, as well as Repashy Bug Burger, which provides a much-needed source of calcium. Remove food if it ever becomes moldy. Offering a bit of food once a week or so (in addition to their substrate) is plenty.
Remember that millipedes are toxic - never allow young children to handle them unsupervised! As long as millipedes are not eaten and hands are washed after touching millipedes, they're pretty much harmless.
Many species will spit up a bit if startled - this can easily dye your skin and take several days to fade.
Millipedes commonly host symbiotic mites that help keep the millipede clean. These mites live on the millipede and eat waste or bits of food that can become caught in the millipede's legs. These mites are harmless, so don't be concerned if you see some!
Easy to care for, inexpensive, and colorful, these three species are well suited to the beginner invertebrate keeper!
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