Many of us played with them as kids, but don’t actually know their name, or the facts about them, so we’ve assembled some of their basic info below.
ABOUT PILL BUGS
- Their shells look like armor and they are known for their ability to roll into a ball – and that is where they get the nickname of “Roly Poly”.
- Their scientific name is Armadillidium vulgare, which is appropriate, because their armored bodies resemble those of an armadillo.
- The pill bug is an isopod, a non-insect arthropod – also known as a terrestrial crustacean – and is the only crustacean that can spend its entire life on land.
- The pill bug is sometimes mistaken for a sowbug, but a pill bug can roll itself into a ball, and a sowbug cannot.
- The body is made up of seven segments and an abdomen.
- The adult’s color can be brown, gray or black.
ABOUT THEIR HABITAT
- Pill bugs live in dark, wet locations.
- They are nocturnal, but can be found during the day in soil or under debris. They are most commonly found under mulch, rocks and fallen leaves.
- They prefer soil with a neutral to alkaline pH level, and are less likely to inhabit soil that is acidic, too wet, or that has been tilled.
WHAT THEY EAT
- The diet of pill bugs consists mostly of decaying or decomposed plant matter, such as leaves. They will sometimes eat living plants, consuming the leaves, stems, roots and fruits.
- Pill bugs can be pests in some agricultural systems, especially in areas prone to heavy rain and flooding. They may feed on crops like strawberries, peas, corn, cucumber, beans, squash, melon, chard, beet, potato, spinach and lettuce.
You can prevent pill bugs from damaging seedlings or vegetables, if you:
- Avoid overwatering, which leads to moist soil conditions
- Remove any decaying plant material
Their foraging has a positive impact on the ecosystem, and has been shown to increase nutrients in the soil (including potassium, nitrogen, phosphorous, increased pH, and higher amounts of carbon).
Pill bugs also provide a food source for birds, spiders, wasps, toads, and centipedes.
THEY ARE HAPPIEST WHEN THEY ARE OUTDOORS
- Pill bugs may occasionally be found inside homes, but are not known to cause any damage, they also do not contaminate food or spread diseases.
- Since a building is typically not a damp environment, they will often dry out and die.
- If you find one in your home, it can easily be swept up and released outside.
- You can prevent their re-entry by putting weather stripping under doors, and sealing up any floor-level cracks that they might crawl through.