The Creepies Who Live With Us

November 14, 2014 -- My friend Sharon recently wrote a post on Facebook about the lizard who lives in her condo.  Judging from the photo she posted, I’d say her lizard is a “house gecko,” a non-native species that originates in Southeast Asia, or it might be a Mediterranean gecko, also a non-native.  She calls him “Squiggles.”
Similarly, we have a couple of native lizards called anoles living on our screened porch.  The reason that Floridians like us permit little lizards to live in our space is that they eat bugs.  Sharon’s Squiggles is eating no-see-ums (sand fleas) and little spiders.  Our screen-roaming anoles eat no-see-ums as they try to squeeze through the “no-see-um screen.”
Sharon asked her friends if she should put out a little bowl of water for Squiggles.  The answer is definitely “yes”; the little guy will dry out and die if he can’t get any water in the condo.  Our anoles are able to leave the porch via a space under the screen door, so they can reach the pond in the back yard.  Or, alternatively, they can find drops of water in our potted orchids on the porch.  Orchids also provide a nice place for the anoles to nap.
A Tokay gecko I once found on a neighbor's front porch.  It is a non-native, originating in Asia.
Anoles are interested in water.  A couple of anoles usually come up to the edge of the pool to watch me swim.  They seem to be very curious about this strange human behavior.
This time of year, another type of creature loves to come into southwest Florida homes, although nobody is sure exactly why.  These are the millipedes.  They are not insects or worms – they are Myriapodous arthropods.  Mostly, they eat decaying plant matter.  Some will eat insects.
Millipedes dry out and die very easily, so entering human homes is a fairly suicidal act.
Even so, millipedes, like cockroaches, have been around for a very long time.  The evidence suggests that millipedes first started living on land during the Silurian geologic period, which was 2 or 3 million years ago.  Well, actually cockroaches are much older, having been around for 200 or 300 million years or so.
The millipedes who live on Sanibel Island appear to be from the order called Spirobolida.  In some parts of the world, people like to keep these kinds of millipedes as pets.
Baby alligator in our backyard.
The particular member of Spirobolida that we have on Sanibel is, I think, a Narceus americanus.  I’m not aware of anyone on Sanibel who keeps a Narceus americanus as a pet, but maybe somebody does . . . .
Narceus americanus lives throughout the east coast and Gulf coast of the U.S.  Theoretically, when threatened they can release a substance that will irritate human skin.  But mostly, I observe, these guys are dead when we find them in our homes.  If they aren’t dead, they are barely moving – almost dead, and therefore not capable of secreting anything.

So these millipedes are pretty harmless.  Nevertheless, my husband says they gross him out.  I guess we won’t be adopting any of them as pets.  That’s okay; I’m satisfied with the two anoles on the porch.  Sharon suggests naming them Ethel and Lucy, or perhaps Pebbles and Bam-Bam.  What do you think?

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