How to kill a millipede

A neat find while walking about in camp today is a little bug called the millipede assassin bug nymph! A gruesome name but in reality a necessary part of the environment – just like other creatures. Because of the defence mechanisms of the millipede it has few predators. Millipedes release a toxin sometimes containing hydrogen cyanide gas which we all know is quite deadly. The assassin bug nymph is able to avoid this gas and attack the millipede – which is in its own right quite amazing. The assassin bug nymphs use their sickle-shaped mandibles to inject a paralytic venom into the millipede which also paralyzes the glands that release the deadly gas. Once subdued, another toxin which is cytolytic is then injected into the millipede to “liquify” its innards. The assassin bug nymph’s mandibles are hollow for injecting as well as retrieving the now edible contents of the millipede. Undisturbed this millipede will then become a “feast” for any nymphs in the surrounding area, and they will cover the entire millipede corpse. Although we only saw the one, it is nonetheless something quite unusual to see! Once the whole millipede is digested and the nymphs move away, all that is left is the hollow shell. Quite a way for a bug to take on another creature, especially when the prey is at least 5 times its own size!

Report and images by Brendan