Posted by: Ross Gardner | October 26, 2021

Pill Millipedes

Pill Millipede (Glomeris marginata)

For whatever reasion, late-October appears to be a prime time for the pill millipede (Glomeris marginata) to be about; I saw half a dozen on a single short walk a couple of days ago, without making any effort to do so. As the days shorten in to autumn and so many aspects of the countryside withdrawing into themselves until that so very distant-seeming spring awakening, such curious little creatures as these bring a welcome entomological distraction.

As animals measuring, at the most, just a couple of centimetres long and with the abiltiy to roll into an armoured ball when danger threatens, they can very easily me mistaken for the far more familiar pill woodlouse (the common UK species being Armadillidium vulgare). The millipede is not, of course, a crustacean like the other (millipedes belong to the Myriapoda) and aside from being a darker, rather shinier grey and possessing a good deal many more legs, they roll themselves into a more oval-shaped, less tightly-closed ball. Like many of their kin and despite a evident tendency for venturing into the open, theirs is a life lived among the leaf-litter, gorging on a plentiful supply of rotting leaves. Such a life appears conducive to longevity with records of some individuals achieving the ripe old age of 10 or 11 years old.

The coastal scrublands of Essex are a far cry for the rainforests of Borneo, but the sight of Glomeris ambling across the paths in front of me took me momentarily back the jungles a had the good fortune to experience a few years ago and finding one of that island’s own versions of the pill millipede. There are many similarities between the two, apart from beast pictured below measuring a good 4 or 5 times the length of it’s European counterpart.

Giant Pill Millipede (of the Zephroniidae family)


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