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American Giant Millipede (Narceus americanus-annularis-complex)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the American Giant Millipede

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Image Credit: Leann T.S., taken in Shenandoah National Park, VA
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Image Credit: Tim G., taken in Ricketts Glen, PA
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Thick and round, the American Giant Millipede is one of the longest and largest millipedes found in North America.

Updated: 09/08/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Sleek and smooth, the American Giant Millipede is a dark millipede with red or red-orange bands on each segment. Its legs and feet are also red, and there are many of them. The body of this diplopod is tubular, not flat, and each segment has two pairs of legs (two legs on the left side of a segment, and two legs on the right). It can grow longer than an adult?s finger, and it can curl up into a swirl, protecting its head and vulnerable legs. The American Giant Millipede can secret a chemical that can temporarily cause skin to discolor, but it does not secrete hydrogen cyanide, so it does not burn or blister skin if handled.

The American Giant Millipede is the most commonly-seen, robust millipede on the continent, and will crawl over gentle hands and obliging arms. This is a forest-dwelling millipede and usually moves under leaf litter and around trees and wood piles. Most millipedes feed on decomposing plant matter. Look for adults crawling on tree trunks or crossing paths in spring when mating occurs. Females use regurgitated food to create a small cup that holds one fertilized egg before being sealed. Adults remain active throughout summer and autumn. Mature and young millipedes overwinter in the soil or tucked away in rotting wood.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Rounded insect body icon
Striped or banded insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Diplopoda
      Order: Spirobolida
        Family: Spirobolidae
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          Genus: Narceus
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            Species: americanus-annularis-complex

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Narceus americanus-annularis-complex
Other Name(s): Worm Millipede; Spirobolid Millipede; Iron Worm
Category: Millipede
Size (Adult; Length): 1mm to 126mm (0.03" to 4.96")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; red; brown
Descriptors: red feet; red legs; long; tube; smooth; rounded; red bands; amor plated; curl; curve

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 1mm (0.0in) and 126mm (5.0in)
Lo: 1mm
Md: 63.5mm
Hi: 126mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the American Giant Millipede may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the American Giant Millipede. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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