Leave no stone unturned
Tim, twelve this year, is obsessed with creepy crawlies. The old English nursery rhyme “slugs and snails, and puppy-dogs’ tails, that’s what little boys are made of.” sums up Tim perfectly. Well, as long as you exclude the puppy-dogs and replace them with the two cats he currently owns that is. Generally speaking, if it crawls, flies, jumps, hops or slithers around the garden, Tim can usually be found somewhere nearby carrying out what can only be described as ‘a detailed investigation’ …
The current tally for insects in his charge, is three stick insects and Myer the millipede, more of her in a moment. Of course, your common or garden stick insect is not good enough for our Tim. His are of the more exotic variety namely, an Extatosoma tiaratum (Giant prickly stick insect), a Eurycantha calcarata (Giant spiny stick insect) and a Carausius morosus (the ‘common’, ‘Indian’ or ‘laboratory’ stick insect).
But the star of the show, and Tim’s pride and joy is Myer the Giant African Train Millipede (Archispirostreptus gigas). Myer is about 10 inches long and a delightful, gentle arthropod. There are several subspecies of millipedes, but this is one of the most popular for keeping as a pet. Myer is a vegetarian or herbivore. Even though the name means ‘1000 legs,’ no species of millipede actually has that many. Depending on the species, they have several hundred at most. Millipedes have 4 legs (2 sets) per each segment in their bodies. From time to time, a millipede moults. Moulting is a way of growing. When the millipede grows, it gains more body segments and, with them, more new legs. On average, this species has a life span of between seven and ten years. This puts Myer, at six years old, around what humans might call middle aged.
The day that we photographed Myer with Tim, it was a bit of a chilly start, and like many of us in middle age, she took a while to warm up. It took about half an hour of expert coaxing by Tim, and a small hot water bottle, to encourage Myer to perform for the camera. Slowly uncurling herself and stretching to her full length, she spent twenty minutes wandering up and down Tim’s arms, shoulders and, at one point the top of his head. After this exhausting marathon, she curled up in a ball and went back to sleep!