The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales carry out monitoring and habitat management at Baglan Burrows, where we run a few moth trapping sessions in the dunes. Previously, we have turned up a few interesting species down there, mostly species such as Shore Wainscot (Mythimna litoralis) which are typical of coastal habitats but often restricted elsewhere. But this time was different...
On our last trapping night on the 18th of August we turned up an altogether rarer species. While peering through a hand lens at a poorly-marked micromoth I happened to look down and see a striking millipede. It was a Portugese Black Millipede (Ommatoiulus moreleti), which as the name suggests is of Iberian origin. It’s an herbivorous species that has been introduced to a number of locations around the world, almost certainly via international commerce as they can survive long sea journeys by remaining dormant.
There are only a handful of UK records, with this being the 6th in South Wales, another being found earlier in the year by WTSWW staff during a site visit to land adjoining Parc Slip. While a non-native species they are not thought to be a problem in the UK but that is not the case elsewhere with their accidental introduction to Australia causing some major problems.
However, unlike in the UK the millipedes have no natural predators in Australia so their population has expanded rapidly there. In this country they are almost certainly under-recorded as they tend to be nocturnal but it was still an exciting find, as even though not a native species they are certainly a beautiful millipede (not a phrase I’ve ever used before!).
-- Vaughn Matthews, Conservation Officer