Scorpions glow under black light. When I learned this fact I told Cristina I wanted an ultra-violet flashlight for Christmas. She indulged me and on Christmas night I wandered around my backyard in North Carolina to see who might show up. No scorpions. Dang. Without any impending visits to the desert, the black light languished in a cupboard until a few days ago when we decided to camp in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On a whim I grabbed the UV flashlight on my way out the door.
That night, we were about to crawl into our sleeping bags when I remembered the black light. I grabbed it and went for a short stroll around the campground, not expecting to see anything. I discovered only human garbage and wandered dejectedly back to camp.
Ten feet from our tent, I bright green glow caught my eye. More trash I thought, but then it began to slither through the leaves. Woah! I stooped down to discover a wide, flat millipede with intense glowing green bands separated by dark black, and glowing green legs carrying it through the leaf litter.
I called Cristina excitedly and she grabbed her camera. She took the above photo under the black light. Then we shone our regular head lamps on it and were shocked to discover that the fluorescent green was actually orange and yellow! Cristina took another photo with the flash to show how the millipede appears in daylight (below).
Upon returning home, I learned that millipedes (and centipedes) are one of the only animals in the world that fluoresce under ultra violet light besides scorpions. What luck!
For you biological types, I believe this species is Apheloria virginiensis (Family: Xystodesmidae, Order: Polydesmida)
CAUTION: do not shine the light at anybody’s eyes (people and mammals). It is very powerful and can damage vision.
Brindley is an American conservation biologist, wildlife photographer, filmmaker, writer, and illustrator living in Asheville, NC. He studied black-footed cats in Namibia for his master’s research, has traveled to all seven continents, and loves native plant gardening. See more of his work at Travel for Wildlife, Truly Wild, Our Wild Yard, & Naturalist Studio.