Bugs In Cyberspace.com

Live Pet Millipede Care

Pet Millipede Care

After you buy a live pet millipede from Bugs In Cyberspace or any other online dealer, please keep in mind that any millipede care sheet on the Internet will usually reflect the experiences of a single person with a species or two. If you buy a live pet millipede through this website you can be assured that you've purchased a healthy individual, captive bred by the hobby's most experienced keepers. We do not import live millipedes, but maintain captive bred, clean cultures of the hobby's best species. On a side note, the African Giant Black Millipede, AGB millipede, is no longer being imported by anybody. As this species has never reproduced well in captivity, they will be more and more difficult to find available. But fear not, the hobby has many other reasonably large and colorful species.

This caresheet will not attempt to replace what can be described in a good book on pet millipede care. For price and quality of information, there is only one out there, or in this case, here: "Giant Millipedes The Enthusiast's Handbook
", by Orin McMonigle. We sell this book through the website. The caresheet below should be enough to get you by if you're purchasing your first pet millipedes. While this is undoubtedly one of the best and most extensive online care sheets on the subject, I make no effort here to write an entire book's worth of content. Please feel free to email me with specific questions. With the exception of the AGBR's (African Giant Black & Red), which eats a diet mainly of rotting wood and dried hardwood tree leaves, the information below is applicable to all pet species in the hobby.

Millipede Caresheet categories:
Housing/Habitats (for display or for breeding millipedes)
Humidity (Drinking and Molting)
Temperature (with discussion on breeding)

Millipedes are among the easiest pet bugs to care for. Millipede enthusiasts enjoy the fact that many species get quite large and can be kept together in colonies. Millipedes are generally safe to handle, but all species should be considered dangerous to the extent that they are capable of emitting toxic chemicals. As long as you don't get them in your mouth or on an open cut, etc. you should be fine. They are commonly used as "hands on" teaching aids by many educators around the world. Wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling millipedes. Millipedes grow by shedding their skin and hobby species range from 2 inches to about 10 inches.

Housing: Millipedes are very communal and will often cluster together even if they are offered a large cage. They also do well when housed with cockroaches or isopods, phasmids and some other pet bugs. Millipedes prefer a cage that is wider than tall. While millipedes enjoy climbing up branches or bark in their habitats, they spend most of the daylight hours hiding. Most tend to be nocturnal, so fewer hiding spots means more visibility for you. However, anything you put in the cage increases the surface area (living area) for the millipedes. Pieces of bark or wood work great. Sphagnum moss, peat moss and coconut fiber are popular substrates. These should be wet down occasionally to maintain a humid environment. If you want your millipedes to thrive and actually breed, you need a much different substrate mix. In nature, live millipede food consists of decaying leaves and decomposing wood from hardwood trees. Oak is a very popular choice among breeders. Other materials can be mixed into this, but the substrate should be primarily composed of these two bases. You'll know you are doing it right when the substrate looks like the following picture. There are actually two offspring of 
Narceus gordanus in this photo if you look closely (one is bottom center-right, and pale). The rounded balls of millipede frass (excrement) are the most important clue that your millipedes are processing the substrate properly. The substrate in this photo is about 1/3 processed. Once it is half processed, you may want to begin replacing substrate or adding more (if you expect eggs/young to be hiding).

Display: A ten gallon aquarium seems to be the standard of measure that most people are familiar with. Ten to twenty adult millipedes can live in a cage this size. A cage this size is also suitable for a single millipede. Baby millipedes can be kept in large numbers in fairly small cages.
Various plastic shoe box or storage containers world well with millipedes. As always, I prefer transparent ones so that I can monitor the contents without necessarily having to open it.

Substrate is the term used to describe what you line the bottom of the habitat with. I prefer coconut fiber as it retains moisture for a very long time and also inhibits the growth of mold. Peat moss is also very good and available at garden stores. Dirt is okay, but wet dirt is much more prone to mold and uninvited bug-visitors usually show up pretty quickly. Dried leaves from hardwood trees (like oak) are the very best substrate since they are a favorite food for millipedes. If the leaves are too deep, however, it may be difficult to see your pets. Consider crushing them up and mixing them into one of the other substrate varieties as a leaves-only substrate does not hold moisture quite as well.

Interestingly, portions of some millipedes' bodies fluoresce under blacklight. This is particularly common in polydesmid flat millipedes as seen in the video below.

Ventilation: All pets that are being housed in containers need fresh air. A little bit of air flow goes a long way in preventing the kind of habitat that promotes the growth of mold and even small mites that occasionally infest food that is left too long in millipede cages. Ventilation is achieved simply by poking holes in a container or by cutting out a section of the lid and gluing a bit of plastic or metal screen over the opening. Millipedes do not need much ventilation though, and desiccation (drying out) is the most common cause of death in captivity.
Humidity: Humidity is doubly important for pet bugs. Millipedes like to drink water and they need a bit of environmental humidity in their habitat when the time comes for them to shed their skin. Luckily, millipedes have fewer problems molting than most other bugs. Water is offered to millipedes in two common methods. A small, shallow water dish is preferred. A deep water dish may result in drown bugs. The addition of a few pebbles will help prevent drowning. If you don't want to spend the couple bucks for a nice looking water dish, any upside-down lid will do. Alternatively, you can just pour water into one corner of the cage every few days. The substrate will absorb most of it, but your millipedes will still be able to drink from it and benefit from the humidity that it helps their habitat to maintain.

Temperature: Room temperature is just find for raising all pet millipede species, whether nymphs or adults. As with most bugs, warmer temperatures and good food supply means faster growth. Cold temperatures lower metabolism and the millipedes will grow much more slowly.

Food: One of the really great conveniences about keeping millipedes as pets is how easy they are to feed. Millipedes are omnivores, so they eat pretty much anything and everything. Everything from fruits and vegetables to bits of dried pet food are eaten. One of the fun parts about keeping millipedes is that you can experiment with offering them leftovers from your dinner table. The primary diet of millipedes will be their substrate, including decomposing wood from hardwood trees, and  leaves of same (like oak).

No millipede caresheet would be complete without some mention of Archispirostreptus gigas, the African Giant Black or AGB millipede. This once popular hobby species is nolonger imported into the US on account of the commensal (symbiotic) mites that live on them in their native habitat, and which proved to be damaging to certain agricultural crops in countries where they were imported as pets. Captive bred specimens occasionally surface in the US hobby, but this species was never a very good reproducer in captivity. They lived upwards of a decade and care was simple, but alas we speak of them mostly in the past tense now. Fortunately, captive bred specimens do not carry the commensal mites as this long dead specimen from my video below "naturally" did.