Lemurs use toxic millipedes as insecticides, get high as a byproduct

From BBC One program, “Spy in the Wild”, we learn that lemurs not only rub millipedes on their skin to deter insects (mostly mosquitoes who are repelled by the millipedes’ benzoquinones), but also seem to get high from chemicals in the ‘pedes. This isn’t just speculation: there’s research to support at least the insecticide part (see here). I’m not sure the lemurs really enjoy this “intoxication”: it may just be a psychological state that is a necessary byproduct of biting the millipedes.

27 Comments

  1. Randy schenck
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    That is something. I do not wonder what it taste like at all.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 9, 2017 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      It’s at moments like this that Jerry’s gastrognome reputation comes back to, errrrr, bite him?

  2. Stephen Barnard
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    How long will it be before someone tries this?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 9, 2017 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      Somebody call Andrew Zimmern…

      Actually the Yooman Race has a long and honourable history of snacking on dangerously poisonous substances in order to get high, or zonked, or paralytic…

      It’s kinda comforting to learn that we’re not alone in this.

      cr

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 9, 2017 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      You holdin’ — or asking for a friend? 🙂

      Personally, I draw the line at toad-licking.

  3. loren russell
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to Alaska in May. Will keep the millipedes in mind!

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 9, 2017 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      Alaska?

      != Madagascar.

      Misprint?

      cr

      • loren russell
        Posted March 9, 2017 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

        There are millipedes in Alaska. with benzoquinones

        and very definitely there are mosquitos

        I’ll probably skip ingesting and try them as roll-ons.

  4. grasshopper
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Ancient dental plaque shows some Neanderthals ate plants and used drugs.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-09/ancient-dental-plaque-shows-some-neanderthals-were-vegetarians/8332730
    I note that some other news sites which have reported this story can’t help but frame it in terms of ‘natural’ medicine.

  5. S.K.Graham
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    My guess would be ancient lemurs (or forebear species) discovered the “high” and enjoyed its effects. The insect repellent effect was a side-benefit. Later, natural selection favored the rubbing through their fur behavior upon getting high.

  6. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    So what’s a six-pack of ‘pedes go for these days?

  8. Michael Fisher
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    It’s a gateway bug!

    [I stole that from “Will N” in the YouTube comments section]

  9. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Jeez, who woulda thunk it. Zonked-out stoned hippie lemurs.

    I found that millipedes were poisonous when I let a few small ones crawl over my hand (this was in Rarotonga) and then developed an itchy rash.

    cr

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 9, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      But I’d be quite surprised if mosquitos could even bite lemurs. Aren’t they too furry?

      cr

      • grasshopper
        Posted March 9, 2017 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

        Ears, eyelids, lips, nose, anus .. you know, all the places mosquitoes bite me.

  10. rickflick
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if such venom has useful medicinal value for us naked apes. The human trials might be entertaining.

  11. Juan Martínez
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Well, that would explain those eyes lemurs display…
    Jokes aside, I’d favour S.K.Graham’s explanation.

  12. Posted March 9, 2017 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Our big armored Amazonian millipedes emit cyanide.

  13. loren russell
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    New world monkeys, too: “Members of a wild group of wedge-capped capuchin monkeys (Cebus olivaceus) intentionally anoint themselves with millipedes (Orthoporus dorsovittatus). Chemical analysis revealed these millipedes secrete two benzoquinones, compounds known to be potently repellent to insects.” Valderrama et al, J. Chem. Ecol.(2000)

    No nomming, just topical

  14. Mark R.
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    So would this be considered tool use?

  15. BJ
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Oh, if only I could be a lemur, getting high whenever I want…

    Instead, I have to go through getting the stuff, setting it up, finding a nice place to do it…

    Actually, I prefer my way. I would bet lemurs don’t get to listen to Yes or Rush or Pink Floyd when they get high!

  16. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    “Warning: do not take the brown acid millipedes. The brown millipedes are bad, man.”

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      Lemur: “The walls are fucking brown!”

  17. TJR
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 4:38 am | Permalink

    Can you also use hoofed mammals in the same way?

    I’ve always wanted to rub myself with ungulates.

  18. Mike
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    I think I’ll give that little experiment a miss.


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