Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ohio Collecting Day 1: Marietta

My first collecting day in Ohio took place near Marietta, on a trail system I've walked many times. It's where I learned to identify many spring wildflowers and hunted for morel mushrooms, so I already knew where to find areas with good millipede habitat. In particular, I was searching for an unknown millipede that was found there last fall.

I arrived a little after 2 PM on June 18th, and the weather was in the high 70s/low 80s. A nice perk of hunting for millipedes is that I'm in forests most of the time, so I was shaded from the heat and enjoyed quite nice temperatures. The forest composition was mostly maple and beech, with some oak, sweet gum, and other deciduous trees thrown in.



The first area I walked through was a bit dry, so I checked a moist crevice at the bottom of a maple tree and found my first species: Oxidus gracilis, the greenhouse millipede (above photo). Unfortunately, this is an introduced species from Asia, found throughout the United States. The individual in the lower right is an immature specimen, as evidenced by its lighter color.

I continued on, stomping through overgrown grasses and shrubs, searching for the unmaintained path I remembered being there last Spring. Visiting it in Summer was a very different experience.


Though my quarry was millipedes, I took some time to notice what else was around. This is one of my favorite flowers, blooming from Blue-eyed grass, Sisyrinchium angustifolium. If you squint, you can even see one of my most hated plants in the background, Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), a terrible invasive.


Also hanging around was Geina periscelidactylus, known as the Grape Plume Moth. The plume moths are an interesting family, and one which I don't know much about.


After some rooting through the leaf litter, I uncovered what I was looking for! The above photo is of Apheloria virginiensis corrugata, also known as the cherry millipede. The scale bar shows inches. If you look closely, you can see some condensation on the millipede, a side effect of living in its moist microhabitat. Most millipedes can't close their spiracles (the holes on the sides of their body they breathe through), so dehydration is a constant danger. It's why you don't find many millipedes in dry areas. You can also see some mites walking on its back, which like to hitch a ride.


Nearby, I found this millipede. It's the same species, but it has recently molted. They don't get their deep black color until they mature a bit.



The above two photos show another Xystodesmid millipede found in the leaf litter, and the unknown species I was looking for! It seems to be in the genus Nannaria, and both photos show a female, which are tan with peach highlights on the paranota and collum.

At this point, all the other millipedes I found were icing on the cake. Luckily, I love icing and found many more millipedes. But first I had to pass this:


I only fell through it twice. It was only my right foot, but still. I then found out the metal parts of the bridge were sturdier to walk on.

Once past the bridge, I found a number of millipedes in the genus Abacion. They're known as the crested millipedes, due to the series of longitudinal crests on their back. Ohio has three species, but they're not separable from photos. Abacion is probably the fastest millipede in Ohio, and is also quick to release its chemical defenses. They tend to make your hands smelly for a number of hours.



I stopped at a dead log and pulled it open, and another millipede greeted me.


The American millipede, Narceus americanus, Ohio's largest millipede. It can grow to about 5 inches long and has a long lifespan, up to 2 years. This one wasn't cooperating for photos and decided it would rather dig deeper into its log, where it munches on the dead wood and fungi within.

All in all, I collected seven species, which wasn't a bad haul. There are certainly more that I missed, but it was a good start to my collecting trip, and I had a nice hike. In my next post, I'll have photos from my second collecting day, which took place near Chillicothe.



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