Aussie kids measure millipede’s mayhem

By January 24th, 2007

Every autumn, millions of little legs invade Australian houses as the feral Portuguese millipede goes on the march, but next March hundreds of CSIRO’s Double Helix Science Club members and students will be waiting.

Millipede Mayhem is the latest Double Helix National Experiment where students, families and schools work with CSIRO to map the invertebrate’s spread. The data will become part of scientific research examining its distribution, morphology and adaptations.

“Portuguese millipedes mass in plague proportions in late summer and autumn, causing havoc for homeowners.”

“The survey is an important step in controlling this invasive pest,” says CSIRO entomologist  Dr Geoff Baker who first studied the millipedes 35 years ago.

Portuguese millipedes mass in plague proportions in late summer and autumn, causing havoc for homeowners.

In extreme circumstances they have brought rail systems to a halt by smothering tracks and making them too slippery for the trains to gain traction. Little is known about more complex interactions the invasive invertebrate has with our ecosystems or where it has spread since the last national survey 22 years ago.

Participation is free and open to everyone. People can register at Millipede Mayhem and need to send collected millipedes by the end of April.

High quality images of kids with millipedes, electron micrographs and a range of images are available from Aussie kids measure millipede’s mayhem.

Fast facts

  • Millipede Mayhem is a national experiment run by CSIRO’s Double Helix Science Club
  • Members of the public will be collecting millipedes and sending them to CSIRO to map the spread of the invasive black Portuguese millipede
  • Participation is free and open to all