The Truth About Pill Bugs

Pill Bug The Truth About Pill Bugs

Photo courtesy of: dospaz

I was out doing some gardening today for birthday girl who was turning 83, when I discovered oodles and oodles of Pill Bugs on a landscaped hillside that I was returning into lawn space. The large ones and the small ones tumbled out of the soil, and went burrowing back in by the dozens, and I realized that I had no idea why they were in the garden in such numbers.  I had no idea what they ate, if they were beneficial, or if they indicated anything in the soil!

I’d like to think I can learn something new everyday, so I hit some pest control websites to read their write-ups, and discovered that these little guys aren’t bugs at all but rather Isopods that breathe through gills, and have a lot more in common with your average pet Hermit Crab than they do with the crickets in your yard.  It’s easy to see how much Pill Bugs are visually alike to some of the arthropod fossils of prehistory, so I suppose it’s no major surprise that much like their underwater predecessors, these creatures prefer moist areas, and behave in a manner not unlike their scavenging crustacean relatives.

Trilobit fossil The Truth About Pill Bugs

Photo Courtesy of: Trailmix.Net

Pill Bugs like soil that is moist or close to water since they breathe through gills and need humidity.  They feast on dead and decaying matter that is relatively soft.  In shady woodland gardens you’ll come across these guys near fallen trees, under moist Ground Ivy, and clinging to the undersides of your potted plants.  In the sunny location I was working at today, the soaker hose,  ornamental river rocks, and abandoned ivy’s and annuals all provided a place of warmth, moisture, and a regular food supply as the spring and summer annuals really begin decomposing.  Rolly Polly’s fulfill the role of a tiny composter in the garden, and their presence is predominantly beneficial.  If you find a large amount of Pill Bugs on your property, rest assured you don’t need to do anything about them, and let them  go about their business.

Cool Pill Bug fact of the day:  What surprised me the most about Rolly Polly’s, other than their gills, was that the females actually carry their young around in a belly pouch until they are large enough to care for themselves.  Pretty impressive for such a tiny creature I’ve never given much thought to until today!

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  1. Ms. Hannah says:

    Thank you so much Amy for all your great info.. My daughter Ms. Hannah found a pill bug fossil over the weekend. We searched online to find out what it was. Your page has helped us so much.

    Thanks again

    ps, she will share all her findings from your page with her preschool class tmrw morning….


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