Harpaphe millipede?
Sat, May 2, 2009 at 12:02 PM
Dear Identifiers of Insects,
This time I’m writing about a huge millipede that keeps attempting to cross a heavily-trafficked footpath; I’ve rescued him twice, and am wondering what type he is. Sort of looks like a picture I found online of ”black and yellow millipede” or ”Harpaphe” genus, but the legs on that were black, not yellow.
This fella is a good three inches long, and rather hefty as far as bugs go! Certainly the largest millipede I’ve ever seen.
Thanks! Hope you find the photo interesting!
R. Thompson

Yellow Spotted Millipede

Flatbacked Millipede

Dear R. Thompson,
Your submission to our website did not use our newly formatted form that requests a location, so we have no idea where this Millipede was found. This also means that you have written to our site before.
We hope you write back with your location. We believe you are correct that your Yellow Spotted Millipede is in the genus Harpaphe, probably Harpaphe haydeniana, The following remarks are according to BugGuide: “this particular millipede secretes a dark fluid that has an odor similar to the almond extract used in cooking. Apparently this is a defensive manuveur. Millipedes also curl up in tight coils when threatened. (1)  Caution: Many millipedes with bright color patterns secrete a compound containing cyanide. Wash your hands after handling them and do not allow children to pick them up.  ‘Millipedes are entirely non-toxic to humans and can be picked up by hand. Some secretions discolor the skin, but this wears away in a few days without lasting effect. Some large, cylindrical, tropical species squirt their defensive secretions up to a half meter (2-3 feet) and can blind chickens and dogs. Their fluids are painful if they get into the eyes, and persons working with tropical millipedes should be suitably cautious.’ ~Rowland Shelley  Harpaphe is in the tribe Xystodesmini.”

Sorry about that – the location of the millipede is Chapel Hill, NC.
I didn’t pick him up with my hands, but let him crawl onto a stick.
Thanks for the info!

Excellent.  An eastern species is Sigmoria trimaculata, and it has yellow legs.  You can also see photos of this species posted to BugGuide and there are reports of representatives of the genus from North Carolina.

Update:  April 13, 2017
Based on new research and a new submission, we now believe this is
Apheloria tigana, thanks to BugGuide where it states:  “‘Apheloria tigana is the dominant xystodesmid millipede in central North Carolina, particularly the “Triangle” (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill region). Individuals typically have yellow paranota (lateral segmental expansions on the dorsa), a yellow middorsal spot on the anterior margin of the collum or 1st segment, and yellow middorsal spots on the caudalmost 3-5 segments. In central NC south of the Deep/Cape Fear Rivers there is a different and undescribed species with yellow middorsal splotches on essentially every segment.’ – Roland Shelley, North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences.”


Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina

22 Responses to Flatbacked Millipede

  1. Mary says:

    What do they eat?

  2. Angela Ragona says:

    I have one in my home. I live in Clayton, NC. I also have 2 dogs and 1 cat. How do I locate it? I know I can’t touch it. Thanks.

  3. Kelly says:

    Hi, I leave what looks like a pile of cocoa powder on my driveway. You can see tons of legs though. What could this be? Thanks for your help.

  4. Deborah says:

    Saw 2 of these while weeding my flower gardens- WinstonSalem

  5. Mary Fyock says:

    I live in Hickory, NC, near the mts. Saw a few of these today right after the rain.

    • Nancy says:

      I’m near Claremont, NC. Weeding last weekend, uncovered at least 10 in different areas. Do not like them, hoping birds will eat them

  6. Sondra Raines Brooks says:

    Two of my chickens ate one. Will they be okay?

  7. Lorraine Pruett says:

    I live in Morganton , North Carolina , I was at a friends home and seen about 20 of those bugs. I even seen one that was a yellowish tan , I assumed it was young . They love mulch . I was wondering if they were good for fishing ?

  8. Steve Resler says:

    Took a pic of a similar one on 7/12/2017 on a dirt road in a heavily wooded area alongside the Hoosick River in Schagticoke, NY.

    Will post the pic if requested.

  9. Jack Daniel McCaffrey says:

    One was in my garden last night. I’m in Charlotte NC, just north of the SC border. So they are into South Western NC for sure

  10. dlan says:

    in r backyard, there are a lot of them a thousand or more, my mom always busy killing them.how to get rid of?because they keep on reproducing

  11. Bambi says:

    Just found one in my yard. Pretty bright yellow and black was wondering exactly what it was. We are in Collettsville NC.

  12. Beth says:

    We’re on the Rolesville/Wake Forest boundary and one of these crawled out of the mulch while I was weeding today. Scary looking thing, gave me quite a start! Thanks for identifying it.

  13. Alison says:

    We are in Pfafftown, just north west of Winston-Salem, and we have tons of these in our garden. I feel like they have become much much more abundant in the last 5 or 6 years, but I don’t have numbers to back that up!

  14. Chaz says:

    There is a large population of these guys in the woods behind my house in Knoxville, Tennessee. They have the yellow dots on every segment.

  15. Robert F Womack says:

    Saw several of these today on Boogerman Loop in the Catalochee section of the Great Smokey Mountains. Elevation about 3500′.

  16. Eileen L Ashline Penn says:

    I live in Cary, NC and live in a community that has recently been freshly mulched. Suddenly these ‘crawlers’ have begun appearing. I have two small dogs, so I have concerns for them as I am aware of the danger for them. …I also have two potted garden areas. Will the millipedes cause damage to my vegetables and herbs? I have been relocating them to the forest area beyond our property, however, I have concerns that they may migrate back to the munched areas of my property if they live in colonized habitats or have nests, eggs, etc.

    • Joe Ros Burns says:

      Hi Neighbor, I live in Apex, NC. According to the original response they feed on decaying matter, not live plants. Live and let live.

  17. Joe Ros Burns says:

    Hi Neighbor, I live in Apex, NC. According to the original response they feed on decaying matter, not live plants. Live and let live.

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