Like all living creatures, giant millipedes can potentially suffer from a number of health problems and injuries. The best way to prevent problems from appearing is to provide your millipedes with appropriate environmental conditions, and to always use caution when handling or interacting with them.
Making sure the enclosure has the proper humidity and temperature levels, as well as never leaving excess food laying around inside will go a long ways towards preventing most problems.
Millipedes and Mites
One thing you may notice on some millipedes is that there are small mites crawling around on them. Most of the time though, these aren’t actually anything to be concerned about, and some species of millipede (such as the African Giants) even have a symbiotic relationship with them. In these cases, the mites actually help the millipedes keep their enormous bodies clean, sort of similar to how remoras help keep manta rays and sharks clean and free of parasites.
Some mites however are not symbiotic and pose a health hazard. These parasitic mites can be distinguished from the harmless variety mainly be their behavior. Harmless mites generally can be seen scurrying across the body of the millipede, rarely staying still in one place for long.
The harmful, parasitic mites on the other hand often tend to park themselves in a particular spot (often near the legs or head) and just sort of stay there. If you notice these parasitic types of mites on your millipede, you should probably do something about it, as they can pose a serious risk to their well being.
If you want to try to remove these harmful mites from the millipede, there are a number of things you could try. One option could be to very gently rinse the mites off with running water (make sure the water is not too cold or not too hot, otherwise this could cause injury). Be aware that this may be risky though. Millipedes breathe through pores in their exoskeleton and if these get filled with water, they could very easily drown (and whatever you do, never try to submerge them underwater!).
Another option could be to dust them with corn starch, them blow it off. The corn starch should hopefully loosen the mites’ grip, allowing them to be knocked off more easily.
To prevent problems with harmful mites from developing in the first place, make sure you aren’t leaving excess, uneaten food in the enclosure. You should never be feeding your millipedes more fruit and vegetable matter than they can completely consume in one day.
Fungus is something that can be encountered on millipedes, especially if they have compromised immune systems (such as if they’re old or are already in poor health). The best way to protect against fungal problems is to maintain the proper humidity levels in the tank (not too high and not too low). Improper humidity levels will put the millipedes into a situation where their immune systems could be weakened, allowing fungal infections to take hold more easily.
If one of you millipedes does suffer a fungal problem, first make sure you are maintaining the proper humidity levels in their tank. As for treating the fungus, one option is to try swabbing the infected areas with Undecylenic Acid, which is typically used to treat Athletes Foot in humans. It would probably be wise to dilute this in water though somewhat (by 25% to 50%) if you decide to try this, to make sure it isn’t too harsh for your millipede to handle.
Adding springtails (a type of tiny scavenger bug) to the enclosure could also be a great idea, as they help to maintain a healthy ecosystem by keeping fungus growth in check.
Another problem that may afflict your millipedes is foot rot. If you notice that any of your millipedes legs have shrunken down to stumps, with the tips being black, this is most likely foot rot, which is caused by a type of bacteria.
This can be an indication that the humidity in the enclosure is too high. To remedy the problem, you should change out and replace the entire substrate, to hopefully eliminate populations of the bacteria within it. Be sure to wash off anything else in the tank too, such as bark, or water dishes, as well as the inside of the tank itself.
After replacing the substrate, make sure that it doesn’t get as humid as before (but keep a close eye on it, since humidity that gets too low can be just as bad in different ways).
I Dropped my Millipede! Falls and Safe Handling
You should always exercise caution when picking up a giant millipede, or if letting them walk across your hands or arms. Never do this over a hard surface (such as wood flooring or concrete), and never at a greater height above the surface than the length of the millipede. This is because most millipedes don’t have particularly “grippy” or “sticky” feet, and could very easily fall of of your arm or out of your hands while walking.
If they fall onto a hard surface or from several feet up in the air, the impact could easily damage their exoskeleton and cause serious injury, or even death. Even though their exoskeleton is hard and made for defense, its still relatively brittle, compared to the mass of the animal. The force of an impact on a hard surface with their full body mass behind it can easily be more than enough to crack it.
If one of your millipedes does suffer a fall, very gently place it back in its enclosure, and just leave it alone. Do not disturb it under any circumstances! Hopefully, in time (and it may be a while), it will be able to heal. Whether or not this is possible however, will of course depend on the severity of the fall, as well as how large the millipede is (larger mass meaning a greater impact force).
If the impact caused any liquid to leak out of its shell, that’s definitely a bad sign and indicates a more severe injury (but not necessarily fatal, so don’t give up hope if you see this).
If you don’t observe any liquid leaking out, that’s a good sign, but don’t assume that means your millipede didn’t sustain any serious injury. You should still take precautions and let it rest undisturbed in its enclosure for a while either way.