Bug Blog

Millipede Warfare

Millipede Warfare

Millipedes aren’t usually thought of as incredibly dangerous insects, but they actually have quite an array of chemical weapons at their disposal, some of which have been known to blind chickens. Ok, so they might not be a huge threat to us, but their chemical warfare is still pretty cool in the world of bugs. Some millipedes are immune to cyanide while others can actually produce it to use against their enemy, and some millipedes are even deadly to the touch for some animals. A new study published in the journal Biological Systematics and Ecology by William Shear of Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia reveals the extent of their chemical warfare.

The millipede group can produce an impressive array of chemicals such as alkaloids, quinones, ketones, terpenes, esters, phenols, various acids, and even hydrogen cyanide. Almost none of them can run fast enough to escape their enemies, so this ability is a very important one. So, they have to fight them off, either using sharp teeth, spines, or chemicals. Most millipede shoot out their chemical weapons through special glands, but some secret sticky substances that they use to bind and trap intruders.

Have you ever seen any of these secreted chemical weapons? Did you know that millipedes could produce such powerful chemicals?