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 [email protected].

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, Berkeley.

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