Thursday, July 5, 2012

Giant Millipedes in Florida! (Narceus gordanus)

Narceus gordanus, also known as the Grayish-Green Millipede or Smoky Ghost Millipede, is the largest North American millipede, reaching lengths of four inches. The beautiful animals are not rare and can be found all over pennisula Florida, particularly at night after rain. During the hot days, they bury themselves beneath logs and leaf litter. Out here in the scrub, they bury themselves  in the sand. Here is a picture of where a Narceus emerged from its underground burrow.

This particular millipede set off into the night and 24 inches later did a half-pipe on a small ridge of sand, spun out, then did a 90 degree turn before moving on.

Their color varies wildly. Most of them here in the Florida scrub are grayish white. The one I found tonight was darker then most.

Notice the tiny toes on each foot. The black spots are the left eyefield. Who can resist that face??

Closeup of the pores on each segment that secret a noxious liquid when the millipede is threatened

Like the two-lined walkingsticks (Anisomorpha buprestoides), Narceus mllipedes are hosts to tiny commensal acari mites. The size of a sand grain, these tiny mites ride around the forest on their free bus.  Here one is hiding in a mathematical tangle of legs.


  1. Thanks for the fantastic story and pictures.I live in florida for 7 years now ( moved here from Europe ) and love nature and macro photography. I saw Anisomorpha buprestoides on numerous occasions but never Giant Millipedes. Please let me know when is the best time to see them (at night with a flashlight?)and where to go to have the best chance.
    Thank you
    Wojciech ochwat

    1. Hi Wojciech,

      Thank you for the kind words. This is a great time of year for Anisomorpha and Narceus millipedes. The best way to find the millipedes is to go out at night after a rainstorm. They can be found in a lot of Florida habitats, but try to avoid the swampy areas. You want to be on sand. They are easier to see on roads or driveways, especially if there is some kind of barrier that "bottles" them up like a curb or wall. Good luck finding them and send me a macro pic!