Millipede That Oozes Cherry-Scented Cyanide Spotted in Virginia National Park

·1 min read

What's two inches long, has dozens of yellow legs, and oozes a cyanide toxin that smells like cherries?

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the Apheloria virginiensis millipede.

This unique creature, also known as a cherry millipede, first came to our attention last week, when Richmond National Battlefield Park in Virginia shared on Facebook that they were recently spotted in the park.

"Bees aren't the only insects who rock yellow stripes!" the National Park Service wrote alongside two photos of the brightly colored insects. "Most millipedes defend themselves by curling into a tight coil, allowing their hard exoskeleton to form a protective shield around them. Apheloria virginiensis uses a different strategy: it secretes toxic cyanide compounds to keep from being eaten."

Fortunately, unlike the cow-killer ant, these bugs are essentially harmless.

"Don't worry too much though—like other millipedes, these beauties don't bite or sting," the post continues. "Just be sure to wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes if you happen to handle one."

The post goes on to explain the important role millipedes play in forest ecosystems. These leggy insects break down leaf litter and other decaying organic matter, which allows nutrients to re-enter the soil and be used by plants.

Important job aside, we'll be giving these guys a wide berth!