Madagascar Giant Pill Millipede

Amanda

Arachnolord
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Jan 20, 2006
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Anybody have one of these? Are they even available to the hobby?
 

J Morningstar

Arachnoprince
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Sep 13, 2003
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This is a direct copy of the best explaination, of all peoples experiences, with the Ill Fated Madagascar Green Pill Bug. Included in them I am one as well. My experience was very disheartening, to watch such amasing organisims die one by one no matter what you do....Sucks.
Please remember this caresheet does not work, no matter how well thought.:(
"Pill Millipede Care Sheet
Please see the bottom of this page for an IMPORTANT update

The pill millipede is a fascinating creature. In fact, it is many fascinating creatures as there are actually many species from diverse localities including Madagascar, Malagasy, and Tanzania among others. At this time, little is known of the specific requirements of each individual species and/or subspecies. Some species are rumored to survive only upon native fungi and algae. Our experience so far with the species that we have worked with has not confirmed this to be a requirement. We are not attempting to invalidate the experience of others but simply to demonstrate what has been working well for us.

Substrate is definitely crucial with pill millipedes. Substrate is in fact currently the sole diet of our pill millipedes. Our substrate consists of a mixture of potting soil, peat moss, and large quantities of leaves and extremely well rotted wood. The more wood the better! When we say 'well rotted' wood, we mean wood rotted sufficiently such that you can take it apart easily with your fingers. Woods we have used include oak, aspen, cottonwood, and mesquite. Woods we do not recommend with any millipedes are pine, cedar, redwood and cypress. All of these have natural chemicals which can be potentially mutagenic and toxic, particularly over extended periods of time. We keep basically the equivalent of an aged compost pile within the enclosure, adding fresh material from time to time. Keep the substrate four or more inches deep and damp, but not wet. The depth of the substrate does not appear to be used by the millipede for burrowing but is quite useful in maintaining an environment conducive to decomposition. Rotten wood the consistency of wet sawdust clumps is particularly greedily consumed. Composted sawdust may be worthwhile to experiment with in the future in an effort to bypass the intervening stages of decomposition. We have just discovered that the rotten wood of the joshua tree is extremely readily eaten. Anyone with a local source of this wood should consider it as it is a pill millipede magnet such as we have not seen before.

Temperature does not seem to be critical, though it may be more so for breeding. Temperatures in the 75 to 80 degree range work well. Humidity can be added through daily misting and by covering the tank relatively tightly. This also assists in the decomposition of the wood and other organic material. A water dish may be necessary for temperature/humidity levels that do not produce condensation on the sides of the enclosure.

Pill millipedes have a reputation of being poor eaters and starving to death. For us, nothing has been farther from the truth. Having kept or sold large quantities, we have never had any captives die of natural causes. However, these creatures do require special measures when shipping. Due to the spherical nature they assume when disturbed, they can roll around as the package is shifted, becoming dented and smashed like so many hard boiled eggs. Pack the inner shipping container relatively well with a sterile medium such as moist vermiculite to minimize this shifting during shipping.

There is also some confusion as to how to easily distinguish a pill millipede from a pill bug. The simplest method is that a pill millipede can tuck its head into the ball, whereas the pill bug cannot.

With a bit of forethought as to the substrate, we find pill millipedes to be an easy to care for and fascinating captive. We think you will too.

Update: A group of people got together sometime after the writing of this care sheet and bought pill millipedes at the same time in an effort to compare notes. The results were quite worthy of reporting. Everyone in the group, including us, reported the starvation of their pill millipedes within a period of a couple months. The group collectively tried all kinds of solutions with many repurchasing lots of pill millipedes to verify same. None of the subsequent attempts were successful either. As of now, two theories predominate. The first is that these millipedes, living in rainforest, have algae growing on the forest floor from which they feed as a sole diet. To us, this does not seem a likely explanation and we have come up with another. Several people in the group reported that their millipedes experienced the most intense die offs as the temperature rose, even though these temperatures were relatively low. These millipedes appear to feed avidly upon woods such as that of the Joshua Tree, and yet they still starve to death, so we investigated other word feeders, namely termites and wood feeding cockroaches. Both of these creatures have microorganisms in their digestive tracts that do the actual work of digesting wood for them. Turns out that in some species, these microorganisms are extremely heat sensitive, and that even moderate temperatures (mid 70s) can kill them, leaving their hosts unable to process their own food, passing it through undigested and thus slowly starving to death. It is this that we believe is happening to the pill millipedes. Though there are a few dealers that still sell pill millipedes, they admit that they do not know of the proper diet to keep them alive either. For us, selling animals that are doomed to certain death is not our philosophy, and for this reason we have decided not to carry pill millipedes. Anyone buying them from other sources should be made aware that they are likely encouraging the importation of an exotic animal for the purpose of certain death within a short period of time."
This was from the people of Golden Phoneix Exotica.
 

Amanda

Arachnolord
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Jan 20, 2006
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652
Thanks for the response! That's very sad to hear that they are dying in captivity. I'm glad that they seem to have a good hypothesis as to why this is happening, but it doesn't sound like the kind of issue that the average keeper is prepared to deal with.

The millipedes I'm asking about aren't the greens. They are dark brown and larger than a golf ball when curled up. I'm sure they probably face similar problems in captivity, but I'm curious to learn what I can about them and haven't found any other info on the board.
 

cacoseraph

ArachnoGod
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Jan 5, 2005
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Thanks for the response! That's very sad to hear that they are dying in captivity. I'm glad that they seem to have a good hypothesis as to why this is happening, but it doesn't sound like the kind of issue that the average keeper is prepared to deal with.

The millipedes I'm asking about aren't the greens. They are dark brown and larger than a golf ball when curled up. I'm sure they probably face similar problems in captivity, but I'm curious to learn what I can about them and haven't found any other info on the board.
i had one called a "basketball millipede" that sounds like what you are talking about. it suffered the same wasting fate.

i believe there are some smaller pillipedes from africa that people have had much better success with
 

Voodooschaaf

Arachnosquire
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Mar 6, 2006
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I own these over one and a half year, and they are doin very well

so what are ur concrete questions bout them, so I can hlep u out a bit.

Greez,
Shura and the whole bunch

edit:
I thought u are talkin bout the greenish ones(Zoosphaeria) which are from madagascar, they reach the size of a golf ball when curled up

I have also Artrosphaeria cf. brandtii from Tansania, they are brownish/orange, but they will never reach the size of the Zoosphaeria

can u specify it with a pic?
 

Amanda

Arachnolord
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Jan 20, 2006
Messages
652
I saw them on an episode of Buggin' with Ruud. He showed the greens, which were the size of a large marble, and then the brown ones that were so large, I wouldn't be able to wrap my fist around one if I tried. I've been searching for a picture, but all the information I can find is on the green millipedes.
 

Uromasto

Arachnopeon
Joined
Sep 27, 2018
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7
I'm aware that this thread is over 10 years old but did you end up finding a solution to your pill millipede conundrum?
 
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