If you live in North Carolina, I really hope you’re going to BugFest next Saturday (September 17). For those of you who’ve never heard of it, BugFest is a free once-a-year event at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh designed to get people excited and educated about all kinds of arthropods – in other words, it’s one of my favorite days of the year. You can chat with entomologists, make bug crafts, hold some bugs, eat some bugs… it’s a blast. I can’t believe I’ve never mentioned it on this blog before.
Anyway, in honor of this year’s BugFest focusing on the subphylum Myriapoda (aka millipedes and centipedes), today’s post is all about shocking pink dragon millipedes.
I didn’t make that one up, that’s actually their legit common name.
Unsurprisingly, shocking pink dragon millipedes (which I will call pink dragons for short) belong to the dragon millipede family, Paradoxosomatidae. With that pink exoskeleton and those cool back spikes, these millipedes definitely look very dragon-y. Despite their fearsome appearance, however, pink dragons are only about 3 centimeters long, which is large for their genus but pretty small in terms of dragons. Or so I’d assume. I don’t really have that much experience with dragons.
A relatively new species, pink dragons were first discovered in a cave in Thailand in 2007 and were named for those dragon-scale-like spikes on their backs. Like most millipedes, pink dragons curl up cinnamon-roll style to protect themselves from predators, and that hot pink exterior warns such predators of the millipede’s secret chemical weaponry: like most millipedes, pink dragons secrete cyanide from glands in their armpits, which has the effect of poisoning anything that tries to eat them and making the hands of people who handle them smell like almonds. So I guess if you enjoy smelling like almonds, you can spritz yourself for free by petting a millipede. Just don’t lick your hands for a while afterward.
Because these millipedes live on the other side of the world, I wouldn’t expect to see any pink dragons crawling around at BugFest. However, there will be lots of other awesome millipedes and centipedes in Raleigh for you to learn about next weekend, plus plenty of fun activities like the “Arthropod Olympics” and Madagascar hissing cockroach races!
That’s right, we live in a world where you can make a day or an afternoon out of learning about bugs and cheering on your favorite cockroach like it’s about to win the Kentucky Derby. What a time to be alive.