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DeciCentiMillipedes and Hitler

“Some people come by the name of genius in the same way that certain insects come by the name of centipede — not because they have a hundred feet, but because most people can’t count above 14.”

Georg C. Lichtenburg

Let’s start with a simple question: how many legs does a centipede have? One hundred, right? Wrong. I know, I know- your life’s a lie, nothing makes sense anymore, maths is completely invalidated forevermore… yeah: I get it. But it’s true. No species of centipede has ever been found with exactly one hundred legs. We’ve got close- one with 96 legs was discovered as recently as 1999. But not close enough.

And there’s a problem. You see, the above species excepted, just about every centipede thus far described happens to have an odd number of leg pairs. It may be as few as 15 or as many as 191, but never ever ever will it be 50- cause that’s even. So the bottom line is, you really ought to sit down and count the legs on every centipede you come across; you never know, maybe you’ll be the lucky person to find the hundred-legged centipede and rewrite the history books in your name!

If that didn’t surprise you, what about this- did you know that lemurs have been found to treat threadworm infestations both in their gut and around their hind-quarters with millipede juice, squeezing the poor insects to extract all that medicinal goodness. So if you’re one of those loonies still believing that humans invented things like medicine, democracy, musical instruments, helicopters etc. then I will simply say that you are wrong- because nature got there first!

Another piece of millipede trivia you might not be aware of is that those select few who devote their lives to millipedes have just one thing bugging them: namely, that millipedes are associated with the Nazis!! The story goes like this… during World War Two the Germans were doing really rather well and had managed to cut off most if not all of the food supplies from reaching England with the help of their nifty little U-boats.

So what did the Poms do? Well, they simply decided they needed to grow it all themselves- and so the Dig for Victory campaign was launched. Those wives and families left at home were encouraged to plant every last scrap of land they could find with crops to eat, and a storm of pamphlets and other literature around gardening was distributed to homes to bring people up to scratch.

In amongst all of this was a very useful brochure detailing the common garden pests and how to identify them- most notably, of course, the millipedes. These “slow-moving enemies” were rather starkly contrasted with the “fast-moving friends” that were the centipedes: these descriptions of course helped along by an illustration showing the millipede holding a massive swastika! Centipedes eat other insects, so would have helped these amateur gardeners, whilst millipedes only eat plant matter so could be harmful to new crops.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that, despite all that you’ve been led to believe, millipedes are not fascists- and they’re not really capable of eating veggies at all.

Oh… and in case you were wondering, millipedes also do not have a thousand legs. The most ever found on one of these insects was about 750. But there is hope, because every time a millipede sheds its exoskeleton to grow it adds on another pair of legs. Being born with only three pairs, it’s a long and arduous process- but if, with due care and affection, a millipede were raised to a grand old age without mishap, then the world once more could be corrected in the form of a millipede with a thousand legs.

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