Live millipede shipping



Step 2: Pack the container with moss

This a 3-cup (700 mL) plastic food container with 12 holes poked in the sides for ventilation (poke holes before adding the millipede so the animal is not injured).

Moss is a great packing material for shipping millipedes because it nicely retains moisture, doesn’t contain harmful bleach (like paper towels do), and has anti-fungal properties. However, great care should be used when harvesting moss, and just like proper permission should be obtained when collecting millipedes for scientific study, the same should be obtained when picking moss. On one hand, there’s seemingly plenty of moss growing on rocks and boulders; however, restraint should be exercised so that too much isn’t removed.

Lay down a 1 inch (2.54 cm) layer of lightly moistened* moss, followed by a half inch (1.27 cm) layer of the soil/substrate from the very spot where the millipede was collected.  With the substrate, you can add an assortment of decaying leaves for the millipedes to eat.

* The moss should be lightly moistened - not soaking but moist enough that condensation should form when the lid is placed on for about an hour.



The following are instructions on how to safely ship live millipede specimens to me for scientific study.

The following photos were taken of a very carefully packed shipment that I received from Deren Ross of Cool, California who kindly sent a few specimens of the xystodesmid millipede Sigmocheir furcata (pictured at right).

I have also put together a primer on how to preserve the millipedes’ DNA and RNA for subsequent molecular work.

Step 1: Find a container

The three most important elements to packing live millipedes are:

  1. 1.Moisture, so the millipedes don’t dry out

  2. 2.Cushioning, to reduce vibrations while in transit

  3. 3.Protection, so the millipede doesn’t get crushed

Basically the millipedes are packed in a plastic food container (like the one to the right), gently sandwiched between layers of moistened moss, then packed into a larger cardboard box with newspaper packed around it.

Here are the details...

**All of the images can be enlarged by clicking**

Step 3: Gently add the millipedes

Gently place the live millipedes atop the first layer of soil and moss, all the while ensuring they don’t ooze defense secretions (which would otherwise be packed in with them and potentially harm them).  You can give them a smell just to check if they squirted; if so, gently wipe them off with a moistened tissue.

Then top it off with a second 1-inch (2.54 cm) layer of moss atop the live millipedes.

Step 4: Moss volume

You can see the first layer of moss is placed directly onto the bottom of the container. The soil comes next, then the millipedes, and finally the last (top) layer of moss.

The volume of moss pictured here is a good amount for the two millipedes shown in the middle of the image. In general, err on the side of using too much moss.

The moss will keep the environment moist, prevent fungal growth, insulate from drastic temperature changes, and cushion the millipedes from vibrations.

Step 5: Put the lid on

Once all the moss and specimens are inside, carefully snap on the lid and tape it shut.  Because millipedes are excellent burrowers, and basically spend their lives tunneling underground, they can burrow right out of storage containers if it’s not securely fastened with a piece of tape.

This is especially the case with spirobolidan millipedes, which are excellent and really strong burrowers:

e.g., Narceus gordanus:

Step 6: Find a cardboard box

Now with the lid securely fastened, find a cardboard box 6 - 8 times bigger in volume than the plastic food container. Also gather some newspaper or packing peanuts, and some packing tape.

Newspaper is generally better than packing peanuts because it’s more effective at insulating the millipedes from cold weather, significant temperature shifts, and vibrations.

Step 7: Packing material

Line the box with crumpled newspaper and leave a depression for the plastic food container to fit snugly into.

Step 8: Pack the container

Place the plastic food container in the the middle of the box in the depression made in step 7, nesting the container down snug into the packing material.

Step 9: Cover the container

Cover the plastic food container with layers of crumpled newspaper, so when the lid flaps of the box are closed it will remain snug and in place, and unable to jostle and slide around.

Step 10: Close the lid and send

Close the lid and send it via United States Post Office Priority Mail. Depending on the resources that I have and the species of millipede, I might be able to reimburse/pay for the shipping costs.

Send the package to:

Paul Marek

Virginia Tech

Entomology Department (MC0319)

170 Drillfield Dr.

Price Hall, Rm 216A

Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA

Thank you for supporting millipede taxonomy and biodiversity research!

I have also put together a primer on how to preserve the millipedes’ DNA and RNA for subsequent molecular work.