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A site for parents, teachers and bugdorks.

Monday Millipedes!

When we teach about arthropods, it can be difficult to illustrate that ALL of these animals have segmented bodies. When you’ve never seen an arthropod up close, it is a tricky idea to wrap your mind around. We often use use millipedes in our teaching as a great example of a fully segmented body on an animal. But now I have cool microscopes from Celestron, so I can show you what I’m talking about! I took all of the pictures shown in this post with the FlipView Portable digital microscope. It’s great for handheld shots where you need to be flexible with the angle of the scope. I deal with a lot of live bugs, so I need to shoot fast and not be held back by a big bulky set-up. The FlipView worked great!

Millipede Coil

In the picture above, you can clearly see the segments on this millipede. As these animals grow, they add segments and legs! When a millipede dies, the ring-like segments of exoskeleton are left behind.

This millipede was not happy about being photographed. She coiled up in a defensive stance and started to leak a noxious fluid from her repugnatorial glands located on the sides of her body. Millipedes leak this fluid to deter predators from eating them. In some species of millipede, the fluid contains cyanide compounds!  Can you see the yellowish tinge on the exoskeleton in the above photo? That fluid tastes REALLY BAD. I have tasted it. I am a scientist. I am dedicated to my craft. Plus, I got sick of kids asking me what it tastes like, so I gathered some data. It is very bitter- a little like dirt juice or aspirin juice and the taste can linger on your tongue for many hours, even if you brush your teeth, drink mouthwash, eat Sriracha or suck on a Tootsie Pop. I do the hard work of you.

Millipede Legs Claws

Almost every segment on a millipede has two pairs of legs. This is one of the ways you can tell them apart from centipedes, which have only one pair of legs per segment. However, when you’re poking around outside and you’ve rolled over a rock and want to know if that long thing is a venomous centipede (NOT Bug Chicks Approved for holding) vs. a poisonous millipede (TOTALLY Bug Chicks Approved for holding) (but not for licking- see above paragraph) you can’t really count the legs. So here’s the trick- centipedes move really fast in an S-shape. They are predators and run down their prey. Millipedes move kinda slow in a straight line after they come out of their defensive coil. They are decomposers that eat fungi and rotting stuff. They don’t need to move fast because mushrooms don’t run away.

Side Note: I’m really happy with the above shot. I just want to paint all of her little tarsal claws (millipede toenails)!

Millipede Legs

This shot perfectly illustrates the characteristic that all arthropods have jointed and segmented appendages. It can be almost impossible to distinguish features on millipede legs as they are moving, and I’ve never actually gotten to see all of the segments as clearly defined as in this shot! Millepede legs have seven segments each.

Millipede Negative

I was playing around with the menu settings on the FlipView and somehow managed to take this super cool shot.  I have no idea what I did, but I’m thinking I will eventually do a whole series of shots in this style. This is one of the joys of giving myself time to really explore a new piece of equipment. The user’s manuals are great, but sometimes I like to just give myself some time and allow learning to take place while I’m making mistakes and testing the boundaries of a new toy!


Join the discussion


    Finally ! There’s something to interest my grandkids other than dinosaur and super heroes . I could certainly use more information on the subject of insects and other bugs.

  2. Dorothy Mahon

    Hi girls.

    I went on your site after seeing the microsoft ad.

    My 3 year old grandson loves bug but it’s a very rainy day and I was hoping to find something to capture his attention, which, to an extent I have but you have no search facility. he keeps asking me to find particular bugs and I can’t find how to search for them individually.



  3. thebugchicks


    Thanks for the comment. I’m working on the site right now and will put up a search bar. You are not the only person to ask for this. We want to make it easy for people to find what they need! Especially little bugdorks!

  4. thebugchicks

    Oh, bugs are the WAY TO GO for grandkids. They are everywhere and they have super powers already. If you need ideas let us know!

  5. thebugchicks

    Hi Dorothy! Search bar is UP! Let us know if you have specific requests for content! –Kristie

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