I Smell Cyanide!

A yellow-spotted millipede on the move.
A yellow-spotted millipede on the move.

The fantastic yellow-spotted millipedeHarpaphe haydeniana, roams freely through the coast redwood forest. Often found crawling in the duff on the forest floor, H. Haydeniana is multi-legged invertebrate that demands respect.

When it senses danger, this millepede curls up in a ball and releases the sweet almond scent of hydrogen cyanide. It’s a deadly chemical deterrent and is one to watch out for, especially if you are a beetle hoping to catch a quick meal. For people, the threat is pretty low. That said, I still don’t want to make it angry!

Have you smelled cyanide in the redwoods yet? If you have any great photos of this deadly beast, send them to us at Science@SaveTheRedwoods.org.

About the author

Emily Burns, the League’s former Director of Science, led the research program that includes the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative. She holds a PhD in Integrative Biology on the impacts of fog on coast redwood forest flora from the University of California,...

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