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Millipede nest

Millipede eggs

I stumbled across a big, beautiful millipede while weeding this week, then noticed these round balls beneath her.  Were they castings (aka poop)?  Well, yes and no.

Millipede nest

Female millipedes dig nests like this when they're ready to lay eggs, and many species form a protective case around each egg with their own castings.  I broke one ball open and, sure enough, a tiny egg was inside.  Sure of the balls' ID, I carefully put Mama Millipede back in her nest and swept some dirt back over top of her.  A planting of buckwheat ensures the millipede's nest won't be pawed up again until at least a month from now, at which point the eggs will have hatched.

Inside, I learned that mother millipedes sometimes guard their eggs until the babies hatch and that the tiny millipedes come out of the egg with only six legs, making them look like tiny insects.  The youngsters quickly push out of their old skins and add new sets of legs with each molt, eventually turning into helpful decomposers of decaying plant debris like their mother.  Live long and prosper, little millipedes!

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