Move mouse cursor over map icons to see maps — no need to click!
Ommatoiulus moreleti (Lucas, 1860)
Ommatoiulus moreleti is a stout, black species to 40 mm long. It is native to the Iberian Peninsula and is known in Australia as the 'Portugese Millipede' or 'Black Portugese Millipede'. In Adelaide it has been a household pest since the 1970s, and west of Melbourne it has stopped trains by swarming over the rail lines. As with many introduced species, the 'boom' in O. moreleti populations in particular areas has been followed several years later by a 'crash' to much lower numbers.
Mass occurrences of this species are usual in autumn (and sometimes in spring) in Hobart, Launceston, Burnie and Devonport. In all of these places O. moreleti enters houses, which is not surprising: Portugese millipede populations in some backyards are of the order of 1000 - 5000 individuals. However, it is very unusual to find O. moreleti more than half a kilometre from a Europeanised habitat, and I have yet to find this species in undisturbed bush in Tasmania. It has been present in the State at least since the mid-1970s. The map shows only some of its known localities.
Ophyiulus pilosus (Newport, 1843)
This shiny black millipede is thought to be native to western Europe, where it is widespread and abundant. It has been introduced to the USA and New Zealand and probably occurs in gardens on the Australian mainland. In Tasmanian backyards Ophyiulus pilosus is often extremely abundant. Householders know it as a thin black millipede up to 30 mm long that wriggles vigorously when disturbed, rather than coiling in a flat spiral. It has been reported entering houses in several localities.
Like Cylindroiulus species, O. pilosus has successfully invaded Tasmanian bushland, but to my knowledge only after serious disturbance (clearfelling, frequent burning, weed infestation). The map shows some of the known localities for O. pilosus. It is likely to occur in most towns and on many farms. The earliest Tasmanian specimens I've seen are dated 1937.
Blaniulus guttulatus (Fabricius, 1798)
Image by Tony Daley, used with permission.
B. guttulatus reaches ca 12 mm in length. Like some specimens of Cylindroiulus brittanicus it has large pink spots along its sides when alive, but it can be distinguished from C. brittanicus by its lack of eyes. It rapidly curls in a tight, flat spiral when disturbed.
Seventy years ago Blaniulus guttulatus, the so-called 'White Millipede' or 'Spotted Snake Millipede', was said to be particularly abundant around Hobart and Launceston, and 'probably widely distributed over the settled areas of the State' (Evans 1943: 83). It now seems to be much rarer. The only recent localities I know of are the parking area behind the Queen Victoria Museum in Launceston (Royal Park); the Dynnyrne/Sandy Bay area in Hobart, where the specimen above was photographed; Mt Stuart in Hobart; and a cave at Gunns Plains.
Overseas, B. guttulatus is said to prefer loamy soils rich in humus, and local populations can be very dense. It has been found burrowing into tubers, bulbs, and rotting, fallen fruit. It has also been reported to attack seedlings, e.g. peas in commercial crops. Because B. guttulatus is a farm and garden pest in many temperate countries (its country of origin is uncertain), there is a large print and Web literature on its biology and control.
Choneiulus palmatus (Nĕmec, 1895)
Choneiulus palmatus has 14-20 prominent bristles (setae) along the posterior edge of each metazonite. It is so far known in Tasmania from a few specimens at two sites in the Northwest: a farm at Gunns Plains and a Pinus radiata plantation at Stoodley. Growing to 15 mm in length, C. palmatus is native to Europe and the Tasmanian records are apparently the first for Australia. I am grateful to Helen Read (Farnham Common, UK) and Henrik Enghoff (Zoological Museum, Copenhagen) for identifying this species.
Brachyiulus pusillus (Leach, 1815)
This small (to ca 13 mm long) and distinctively marked millipede occurs across most of Europe and has been introduced into many other places around the world. The only Tasmanian records I know are my own collections in a garden on Mt Nelson and on farms and in gardens in the Northwest, but I suspect that B. pusillus occurs in settled areas throughout the State. I have also seen it in West Gippsland in Victoria.
Two Cylindroiulus species have so far been recognised in Tasmania. C. brittanicus (Verhoeff, 1891) [left] is widespread in northwest Europe and has been introduced to North America, New Zealand and South Africa. The very similar C. latestriatus (Curtis, 1845) [right, with arrow indicating extended gonopods] is also apparently a native of northwest Europe but now occurs widely in the temperate world. In Tasmania both species appear to be invading bushland in the north, west and centre of the State. They co-occur in a number of places, including Pumphouse Point at Lake St Clair. In my experience they are more likely to be found in bush on the edge of towns than in gardens and other Europeanised habitats, and I expect Cylindroiulus species to become much more widespread in undisturbed parts of Tasmania in future.
Both Cylindroiulus species grow to about 16 mm in length and are light gray, dark gray or light brown in body colour. It is impossible to distinguish the two species without dissecting out the gonopods of mature males and examining these structures under higher magnification. For gonopod illustrations see Blower (1985).