By Aidan Smith, Wharfedale Naturalists’ Society

AT 3,718 meters, the volcanic peak of Mount Teide dominates the island of Tenerife; one of the Canary Islands.

Mount Teide is an active volcano, although the last eruption was back in 1909, occurring from the El Chinyero vent on the north-western Santiago rift.

In November 2014, we took a family holiday to Tenerife’s north coast. Our accommodation was a small apartment situated upon a passion fruit farm. It was all you can eat passion fruit during our stay. That week, my vitamin C intake was second to none. The passion fruit were of a vivid yellow variety rather than the purple undertones familiar in our supermarkets.

As we drove up the slopes of Mount Teide to visit what is a UNESCO world heritage site, we made an impromptu stop among the pines to grab our daughter a snack from the car boot. As we did so, I chanced upon a small flock of Tenerife blue chaffinch. A bird endemic to the island and whose population is estimated to be about 1,000-2,500 pairs.

While there was no volcanic eruption on our trip, we did witness an irruption … a millipede irruption. It had been brought about by favourable weather conditions. Millipedes got everywhere. We were literally sweeping hundreds out of our apartment each morning. Each evening, we would sit out gazing west over the Atlantic. As the sun set, the millipedes wriggled under our toes.

Back home, millipedes are an occasional find. Usually, hiding among the leaf litter in my local woodland or revealing themselves on my house wall after dark.

About 65 species of millipede have been recorded in the UK and they come in quite a variety of shapes, size and colour. Millipedes differ from similar species, such as centipedes, by having two pairs of jointed legs on most body segments as opposed to just the single pair.

For me, the white-legged snake millipede has the classic look. It is long, thin and its movement reminds me of the game ‘snake’ on early mobile phones now considered retro. The pill millipede (pictured) is much shorter and will curl up in a ball when threatened. With all those legs progress is smooth, and almost gastropod like.

Take care not to confuse them with the pill woodlouse. Another common species, but with an exoskeleton that looks more like the body armour of a 16th century knight heading into battle.

We are heading to Italy this year. Mount Vesuvius is still classed as active. But, it is a chance to see some different insects that I am looking forward too.