A Bug by Any Other Name: Pill Bugs, Roly-Polies, and Doodlebugs

A Bug by Any Other Name: Pill Bugs, Roly-Polies, and Doodlebugs

Pill bugs—otherwise known as roly-polies, doodlebugs, wood lice, or scientifically as Armadillidium vulgare—are small, gray-colored insects that roll into a ball when disturbed or frightened. These oval-shaped pests are usually 8½-18 millimeters long and have 7 pairs of legs and 2 antennae. Their hard shell-like exterior is segmented and resembles that of an armadillo.


Though commonly referred to as a bug or insect, pill bugs are actually land crustaceans that are more closely related to lobsters, crabs, and shrimp. Though they don’t live in water like their ocean-based cousins, pill bugs do seek out damp environments and are often found in moist, dark, sheltered areas. Sometimes pill bugs are mistaken for another species of wood lice known as sow bugs. Though they have a similar anatomy, sow bugs are flatter than pill bugs and are unable to roll into a fully round shape.

Since pill bugs are nocturnal, they won’t be seen moving about much during the day unless disturbed. These pests feed on decaying matter, but when there aren’t piles of leaves, grass, or decomposing logs to eat, pill bugs will feed on seedlings, new roots, or fruit resting on the ground. The lifespan of the average pill bug is 3 years.


Though they don’t threaten human activity, finding a pill bug indoors can be a sign of an outdoor infestation that could pose a danger to vegetation or draw attention to an indoor problem like water leaks or moldy wood.


These critters are accidental indoor invaders. Their survival is not reliant on human activity, but they do need a damp environment to live. Most pill bugs will die within a few days indoors unless they escape or find a suitable home. They commonly find their way inside through door thresholds (especially under sliding doors) and floor-level cracks. Basements are a common place to find pill bugs indoors.

Pill bugs don’t bite, sting, or carry disease, so using a dustpan, vacuum, or piece of paper to pick them up and relocate them to a comfortable spot outdoors (like a compost pile) should be fine.


Moist conditions or piles of leaves, grass clippings, or other organic material around a home are prime living quarters for pill bugs. One of the best ways to keep all kinds of pests out of your home is by taking away their nearby food sources and harborage areas. Since pill bugs have been known to nibble in gardens when their preferred food source is scarce, keep excess organic matter away from in-ground or raised garden beds.

If you have a compost pile, this is a great place to relocate pill bugs since they help move the decomposition process along and won’t be tempted by your plants when they have enough to munch on. Just make sure your compost pile is kept far enough away from the side of your house so it doesn’t inadvertently draw additional pests inside.

Finding unwanted pests indoors or around the perimeter or your home? Give us a call and one of our team members will schedule a home inspection. We create pet- and family-friendly pest control plans that are customized to your unique needs. You never need to worry about invading critters when Moxie Pest Control is on your side.



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