Pill Bugs

Identification and Control


Pill Pugs commonly known as the Roly Poly Bug  

A pillbug , more commonly known as roly poly, wood louse, armadillo bug, and sometimes sow bug

Pill Bugs are not really insects but crustaceans more closely related to crayfish and crabs than any insects.

Like their aquatic relatives, land loving pillbugs use a gill-like structure to breathe. They require moist environments , but will not survive submersion in water. Pillbugs will curl into balls when threatened, which is how its common name 'roly ploy' bug is derived.

They live 2 to 3 years, are generally 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch in length and gray in color.

They have armadillo-like plates and seven pairs of leg. They can become a problem in the garden, under persistent moist and wet conditions. They thrive in compost piles under rocks, logs and garden debris. basically anywhere that is consistently moist will serve as a pill bug habitat.

Under the proper cool moist conditions their populations expand , it is also when they do most of their damage. In damp spring weather as seeds are germinating, they will eat sometimes entire beds of emerging seedlings . Tender plant roots and newly emerging shoots are also devoured en masse.

They wander into flower pots and find their way into homes,particularly basements, and garages.

To control infestations, any product registered for use against Slugs and Snails will also work on pillbugs , [other than the salt trick]

For a mild infestation, try pouring an inch or so of beer into the bottom of a small bowl or dish with its edge at soil level-  pill bugs, as well as snails and slugs will crawl in and drown.




The best defense against Pill Bugs, as with most garden pests is good garden maintenance, proper sanitation techniques. Remove unused plant debris and logs or rocks  which helps to eliminate suitable habitats

If Pill bugs are a problem do not apply compost or mulch until after seedlings are established. Keep mulch about a foot away from the foundations and sidewalks if possible.