While down in West Virginia, I had the good fortune to stumble into these Sigmoria millipedes, caught in flagrante delicto. We are always assured of seeing a few of these large, colorful millipedes during the New River Birding & Nature Festival, as they thrive in the rich woodlands where we spend much time.
They are often referred to as almond, or cherry, millipedes. The reason? Pick one up and give it a shake inside your balled up fist. The millipede will exude a very pleasant aroma, quite reminiscent of one of the aforementioned fruits. People always react favorably to this fragrance. It apparently is the result of the animal releasing benzaldehyde when under duress, possibly as a form of predator deterrence.
Sigmoria millipedes are rather tanklike in that they are heavily armored with thick scutes, or plates. When bothered, the millipede typically curls into a fetal ball, thus presenting a formidable wall to predators and protecting its more vulnerable undercarriage.
Millipedes and centipedes are often confused, but the two groups are quite different. Both are in the massive phylum Arthropoda, which by some accounts make up 80% of ALL animals on earth
Centipedes have one pair of legs per body segment, and in general possess far fewer legs than do centipedes. For the most part, they appear leggier and move far faster than than their sluggish millipede brethren. They tend to look much more "creepy" than do millipedes. Also, centipedes are predatory carnivores, armed with venom-producing glands to help disable victims. Some species can deliver a painful bite
But no worries with mild-mannered plant-eating millipedes. In fact, at least the Sigmorias smell delicious.