What Are Pill Bugs?
Pill bugs are one of the most common garden isopods found in the United States. They’re regular inhabitants of damp, moist soil, preferring these areas due to the water content. Also known as roly-polies, potato bugs, and doodle bugs, these isopods are great for your soil since they help aerate the area they inhabit.
What Do Pill Bugs Look Like?
Pill bugs measure three-fourths of an inch in length and have external plates like an armadillo. This armor consists of a set of seven body plates. They also have seven pairs of legs and two small but sharp antennae.
It takes about a year for a pill bug to mature into full adulthood. These creatures lay eggs, much like a normal insect. Once the eggs hatch, however, the mother carries them in a small marsupial-like pouch similar to a kangaroo. As they mature, pill bugs will shed the back and front halves of their shells before molting into their final dark grey armor.
How Do Pill Bugs Behave?
If you touch a pill bug, you’ll see it immediately curl into a ball. This curling action is a defensive behavior to shield the pill bug’s vulnerable underbelly.
There are four separate gill-like structures on a pill bug’s underside. The terrestrial pill bug uses these gills to absorb oxygen out of damp, moisture-laden areas. It’s why you’ll find these critters hiding under damp logs or wet soil. If the gills dry out, the pill big could die.
Where Do Pill Bugs Nest?
Your home or garden has many ideal spots that fulfill a pill bug’s requirement for dark, damp, food-abundant places to live, such as under mulch, piles of compost, leaves, and vegetable debris.
Pill bugs also like to nest near food sources. These can include lawns and gardens where they can eat decaying plant matter or places where they can access the feces of other animals. As nature’s automatic waste disposal system, they also like farms where cows and horses graze.