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Narceus americanus

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Narceus americanus
Photo: Insectarium de Montréal (René Limoges)
Narceus americanus

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These millipedes have cylindrical bodies that can reach up to 12 cm. They are the largest species of millipede known in Canada. They have over 90 pairs of legs. Their heads have short antennae and two sets of simple eyes (ocelli).

Country of origin

French name
Scientific name
Narceus americanus
English name
North American millipede
Living environment


Millipedes eat dead leaves and rotting wood.


They live in humid conifer forests, hidden in fallen logs or soil litter.

Geographic distribution

They are found on the eastern US seaboard and in southeastern Canada and the United States as far as central Texas.

Ecological role

They play an important role by recycling organic matter.

Special behaviour

Millipedes are nocturnal. They are active from spring to fall and reproduce in summer. They overwinter in a sheltered place.

When millipedes hatch, they have only three pairs of legs. The number increases with each succeeding moult.

They move slowly, but have a number of defences. First of all, they have a rigid exoskeleton, and roll up in a ball to protect their vulnerable parts. They can also secrete a foul-smelling yellowish-brown liquid. Lastly, they can dig into the soil to hide themselves.

Interesting facts


This species is the most common and most abundant of the large millipedes in eastern North America.

Interesting facts and curiosities

No millipede actually has one thousand legs. The species with the most legs, which lives in California, has 750.

At night, this Narceus species climbs trees. A specimen was once observed five metres up a dead tree.

At the Insectarium

They live comfortably in a terrarium lined with a mixture of peat moss, dry leaves and dead wood.

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