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Rolly Polly Bugs

Summary: Someone writes that she is having a problem with rolly polly bugs, also known as pill bugs or sow bugs. Her house was treated, but the rolly pollies continue to invade the house. 

Melissa; Bel Air, Maryland asks:

I called an exterminator in December who sprayed inside and outside after seeing rolly-polly bugs crawling up my foundation and into my house in the family room near the fireplace. Since then, I haven't seen any crawling up the foundation, but they are still coming in. My exterminator said they are the ones left behind the walls and it will take time for them to come out.

Well, it has been really cold so they are coming out of the walls in that same area. I have no leaks. Do you think I need to spray behind the walls? My exterminator says no and also said it's impossible for them to multiply because it's not moist enough. What should I do? I have counted 25 dead already. Will they ever stop coming in?


The pest control materials that were "sprayed" would have lasted about sixty days on the exterior under the best conditions. Rain, sunlight and a host of other environmental factors quickly break down the residual carrier that gives these pesticides their staying power. Same goes for an interior treatment, although the lasting power is a bit longer inside. A better product to apply along exterior walls would be a granular insecticide like Talstar PL. If you want to keep it totally natural you can apply diatomaceous earth.

Rolly polly bugs, also known as pill bugs and sow bugs, are in the house initially due to the presence of decaying matter associated with moisture. When outside, these tiny creatures gravitate towards the sides of structures where moisture tends to accumulate in places where the ground slopes back towards the house or under spots where gutters fail to capture rainwater as it comes off a roof.

As temperatures turn cold, pill bugs try to find shelter. That shelter is often the interior of a house via cracks under doors and windows and breaks in foundation walls. However, these tiny crustaceans actually have gills and need moisture to survive. They are most likely coming out of the wall in a last effort to find water. If there are pill bugs, there is moisture. A simple moisture meter will give you the answer you are looking for.

If you absolutely insist that you need a treatment you might want to consider having the wall treated with insecticide dust like Tempo 1%, to set up a barrier. Small holes would have to be drilled into the wall between each stud and dust pumped into the wall voids. The small holes can be plugged, but the wallpaper will never again look the same.

So, it is up to you. The pill bugs do no harm and they will probably be gone in the spring. To treat or not to treat. That is the question. (My apologies to Mr. Shakespeare.)

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