One way we have of judging the health of a forest is by assessing populations of large species, including many of the birds that call Cheasty Woods their home.  But these larger animals rely on a complex web of smaller life forms from insects, arachnids, and earthworms, down to protozoa, roundworms, and other microscopic soil creatures.

As we improve the plant diversity in our local forests, we also nurture a wider range of these smaller invertebrates, along with lichens, bacteria, and fungal communities.   All this foundation together make up the rich ecosystem that supports the birds, reptiles, and mammals we associate with a walk in the woods.

Centipedes are carnivores that hunt other soil creatures using special claws to inject poison into their prey.  (Don’t pick them up, lest you get a dose yourself!)  They have skin that is very sensitive to light and touch and prefer quarters that are cool, dark, and snug which is why we often find them under rocks, logs, or mulch.  Some types of centipedes have a strong maternal instinct with mothers that care for their eggs devotedly and defend them fiercely.  

Millipedes, on the other hand, are mostly vegetarians, but still pack a poison for protection.  (Though this small amount of cyanide may not be enough to sicken a human.)  They are often seen curled up in a defensive posture, and many millipede mothers are also dedicated caretakers of their eggs.  They molt and grow longer their whole lives, which usually last 2-7 years!

  • Significant information taken from Life in a Bucket of Soil, by Alvin and Virginia Silverstein