Millipedes in North America are understudied arthropods. Several species inhabiting the eastern US have been described, but many more undocumented species exist in all regions of the US. It is somewhat surprising that millipedes are understudied in the US considering that many species are well documented as infesting homes in large numbers. Perhaps even more shocking, millipedes are known for causing human injury with toxic defensive secretions that they eject from specialized bodily features. Millipedes infest homes in every state east of the Mississippi River, and research shows that some of these species cause burns to human skin within homes in the region. Georgia homes often become infested with millipedes and medically harmful encounters with the arthropods within homes in the state are well documented.
The Narceus americanus millipede is the most researched millipede species within the United states, where they can be found in most states. These millipedes dwell within forested, agricultural, residential and urban regions. Researchers have learned that this species can be divided into several subspecies which are likely distributed in most regions of the country. Narceus americanus maintains close contact with dead trees, soil beneath rocks, leaf litter, and within piles of dry leaves around homes. Narceus americanus millipedes secrete foul-smelling defensive benzoquinones from a specialized pair of organs called “ozadenes,” which are often referred to as “stink glands.” In addition to smelling unpleasant, this secretion causes painful and irritating chemical burns on human skin. This secretion also alters the color of skin for periods lasting as long as several years, and these injuries are often sustained within homes infested by numerous specimens. The Narceus americanus is considered a household pest in Georgia, and nuisance infestations are not uncommon in all areas of the state. Several species of Dicellarius millipedes can also be found in Georgia where they infest homes and secrete toxic irritating compounds.
Have you ever found an abundance of millipede specimens within or around your home?