Learn how to identify common pests; understand their biology, diet, and habits; and find out what you can do to control them.
The pill bug is not an insect. It is actually an arthropod known as a terrestrial crustacean. It is also known as a roly-poly because it rolls into a ball when disturbed and since this defensive behavior also makes it look like a pill, hence the moniker, pill bug.
Where do they live?
Pill bugs are nocturnal and during the day they may be found in the soil, under mulch, fallen leaves, rocks, or logs. Pill bugs feed mainly on decaying plant leaves and other decomposing materials.
Pill bugs are generally found in soil with sow bugs, millipedes, and earthworms. It is unlikely that pill bugs will be found in soil that has been tilled, is too wet, or has an acidic pH.
How do they live?
Females may produce 1 to 3 broods every year and each brood is composed of 100 to 200 eggs. Eggs hatch after 3 to 4 weeks.
After hatching, the young may stay in the pouch on their mother’s underside for an additional 1 to 2 weeks and grow to 2mm in length before venturing off on their own.
The adult ranges in color from gray to brown and reaches 8.5 to 18mm in length when mature. Pill bugs have seven pairs of legs. Adults can live for 2 to 5 years.
How do they affect us?
They are mainly considered to be beneficial in the garden. However, when they wander indoors or when they have been found feeding on seedlings and some plant roots they receive occasional pest status.
How do we control them?
The best way to control pill bugs is to prevent their entry in unwanted areas. Indoors, this may be done by ensuring any floor level cracks and door entries are sealed. If they do enter inside, they can easily be swept up and taken outside.
To prevent pill bugs from causing damage to seedlings, vegetables and fruit on the soil it is best to remove decaying plant material that may serve as a host area for the pill bugs.