Wander around here at Earthshine in the summertime, and there’s a chance you’ll run across a giant millipede. A pretty good chance, seeing as we have more than one species.
Big, armored crawlers, up to four inches long, who will curl up in a tight spiral when threatened. Their shell is dark gray, almost metallic looking, and rounded. Or, you might run across one about the same size, but flatter, black with red, or sometimes yellow, stripes down its back.
The scientific name for that one is Apheloria virginiensis. Around here, people call that kind cherry coke millipedes. Disturb one of these and it might start smelling strangely sweet. Apparently, that’s a chemical defense, a cyanide compound the millipede produces naturally, to discourage bigger critters from chomping down on them. Some people say it smells like cherries, some say it’s more like almonds. Really, it’s something you need to experience for yourself. If you do, you definitely want to avoid touching your eyes, and you probably want to wash your hands after. Oh, and don’t try eating ’em. Other than that, they’re an amazing creature to watch navigate the forest floor, crawling under and over dead leaves on the trail. All those legs, and you never, ever see one trip.