Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Handling Millipedes

Handling Millipedes

Millipedes are quite amenable to handling. With a few precautions, they can be safely and confidently handled by even small children, since they do not move fast, do not bite, and have tough exoskeletons that can stand a fair amount of abuse.

The safest way to pick up a millipede is to place your hand flat in front of it, palm up, and allow it to walk from the substrate onto your hand. You will feel it gripping your skin with the claws on its legs as it moves along.

Larger millipedes can be carefully picked up by grasping the cuticle between thumb and forefinger and lifting it straight up. The millipede may try to hang on to the substrate with its claws, so be careful you do not injure it or pull off any legs.

When first handled, the millipede may curl up into its defensive "watchspring" position. Some of the large millipedes also have the habit of defecating when first picked up. Once the millipede feels safe, it will uncurl from its defensive posture and begin exploring your hand, tapping your skin with its antennae as it walks along. By successively placing one palm in front of the other, your pet can be encouraged to walk along until it gets tired and stops for a rest.

There are some safety precautions that must be kept in mind. Although millipedes do not bite, they are capable of excreting irratating fluids from their metathoracic glands if they are frightened or handled too roughly. This fluid is harmless in most species, but it can cause some pain and irritation if it gets into an open cut, or if it is accidentally rubbed into the eyes or nose. It is important to make sure to always wash your hands with soap and water after handling any millipede. This is particularly important with young children, who often get excited and goad the millipede into secreting its defensive fluids.

Some species of millipede have stronger secretions, and can cause some pain and blistering on exposed skin. These species should be handled with care to avoid provoking them into a defensive reaction.

There are also some safety precautions that must be applied to the millipede. Although they are capable of a strong grip using their myrads of claws, accidental falls can still happen. Falls from a height are capable of breaking open the millipede's exoskeleton, causing it to rapidly bleed to death. Handle your millipede with care. Avoid any sudden movements which may frighten your millipede and cause it to curl up and drop off your hand. Do not let it walk upside down on your hand or arm, as it can easily lose its grip and fall. It is best to always hold your millipede no more than six inches over a table or the floor, so it will not be injured if it accidentally falls.

Young millipedes are very delicate and easily injured. They should not be handled.

1 comment:

ShutPEDown said...

My giant millipede has spent the last half an hour biting my hand as hard as she can. When I tried to put her down she gripped tighter and bit harder. I'm not sure if she was being aggressive or if she thought I was a mate. She seemed to have lost all fear of me which is unusual as usually when I stroke her she rolls up slightly.