Weirdness in the woods
September 17, 2011
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So three days ago, the dogs and I were doing our usual tour of the woodlot across the way from our home. It’s a mix of grown-over old field, and of white pine and cedar plantations. We got to the cedar section, which used to include part of a skidoo trail; the old winter hut is still there but in shambles. I had it in my head that I would keep an eye out for neat mushrooms (the bit of rain we’ve had lately has brought forth some beauties) so I was focusing on old stumps and fallen trees. I spotted something interesting – not a mushroom, but a pair of giant millipedes on a stump! Yay!
I approached quickly in hopes of snapping a pic or two but soon realized there was no need for stealth or speed – the critters were dead, frozen in a weird tableau.
I picked both of them up for a closer inspection; yep, dead – not just simply molted exuviae. Huh. Odd.
We carried on down the path another dozen metres or so, still looking for mushrooms, and it quickly became apparent that we were literally surrounded by death. On both sides of the path, nearly every stump was littered with millipede corpses.
I’ve walked through these little woods hundreds of times in the past 6 years and have never seen anything like this before. I planned to go back the next day for more pictures (finally got a flash!) and to better document the situation, but work, teaching duties and my thesis proposal got in the way. By the time I got back yesterday, my fears that I might have missed my window of opportunity were confirmed: most of the evidence was gone, presumably becoming a snack for foraging birds and mammals. Of the few millipede bodies I was able to find, the two that originally caught my attention were still frozen in time on a deathbed of soft moss:
If anyone has any insight as to what on earth happened here, I would welcome it. The googles have not been very helpful…