The other day I had a number of chores to do outside. Our workers are about to start closing in the lower level (kiln room and laundry/storage room) so my septic garden area was to be appropriated as “cement mixing” area. All my plants (and boy are there a lot) had to be relocated. As fate would have it, my sneakers were sopping wet from the previous day’s downpour, so I pulled on my heavy duty boots and starting the relocation process.
My left boot felt a tad uncomfortable, as if a few stones were pushing against my toes. I had given the boots a shake before putting them on (you never know what might have moved in there overnight) so didn’t give the matter much thought. After about an hour of work, the dull pain intensified to a level I could no longer ignore. I pulled off my boot, gave it a shake, and a few small stones came out. Hmmm… is that it??
To make a long story short, after a few hours of work (and a trip down to my mango tree for the daily collection), I finally took my boots off. My left foot looked (and felt) pretty nasty, with three of toes covered in black and red angry looking abrasions. “Pretty impressive damage for a few little stones” I thought. “Might be time for a new pair of boots.”
Nick was not so quick to assign blame to the boots. “Did you check that there was nothing in there?”. “Of course I did!” I exclaimed, reiterating the numerous shaking of the faulty boot. Nick walked over to my boot, gave it a hard if unceremonious whack…and out popped a yellow banded millipede!
After a quick lecture on the “proper” way to insure ones boots are free of living critters, Nick let me go further research what exactly happened to my foot. He also quickly (and carefully!) bagged the offending party just in case we needed to make a trip to the ER.
I learned a thing or two about millipedes:
The name derives from Latin, milli meaning thousand and ped meaning foot. This is a misnomer, as the average millipede has between 80 and 400 legs, with the largest still being short of 1000 at around 750.
Millipedes do not have a poisonous bite, but many protect themselves by offensive odors produced by stink (repugnatorial) glands; some species (the tropical types!) exude a defensive liquid that can irritate skin or burn the eyes
Lemurs in the wild occasionally pick up toxic millipedes and rub themselves all over with the foul smelling juices from the millipede. The juices may act as an insect repellent – the lemur equivalent of flea-spray! The lemurs also get a “high” off of these secretions and often “abuse” millipede secretions as a group activity (a slightly disturbing “Animal Planet” video portraying this behaviour can be viewed here)
And perhaps most importantly, when prodded or at rest, most millipedes curl up. As consequence, strong banging of shoes is required to dislodge them from size 7 boots!