Genus Sphaerotherium

54 species of Pill-millipede from the genus Sphaerotherium are known from Southern Africa, and coastal Kwazulu-Natal Province is especially rich in the number of species found there.

South Africa’s largest species, the Giant Pill Millipede, can grow to 5cm in length and is the size of a ping-pong ball when it is curled up. This habit of rolling into an impenetrably tight ball when threatened is probably the most endearing characteristic of these fascinating creatures. Another unusual trait of Pill-millipedes is that the males intent on breeding can produce a sound by stridulation – rubbing modified back legs against ridges on the final segment produces a vibrating sound, unique to each species, that the female picks up and then allows the male to mate with her.

Pill-millipedes live in the moist leaf-litter on forest floors, feeding on decaying leaves, fruit and wood, and thus perform a vital ecological function by recycling nutrients. They’re mostly active at night.


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