Summary: If you've ever picked up a rock in your garden and discovered little bugs crawling around, you probably were looking at woodlice. These pests can become a nuisance because they will eat garden plants and may even sneak indoors in search of moisture.
Woodlice, also known as pill bugs, potato bugs, or roly-poly's, are small bugs that can easily be found hiding under rocks. I'm sure you remember playing with them when you were a kid. When picked up or touched, they curl into a tight ball. They derive their name from their similarity to pills, with shells that protect the rest of the organs in their bodies.
Woodlice are gray or black in color and are less than a half-inch long. They somewhat resemble tiny armadillos because they are segmented. In fact, woodlice are actually closer in relation to crabs than they are to centipedes because they are crustaceans. The good news is that these tiny critters cannot bite you.
These insects not only love soil, but they can be found in almost any moist or humid area. The reason for this is because they lack a waxy cuticle to cover their bodies. Without the cuticle this bug can quickly become dehydrated.
Because woodlice are constantly seeking moisture, they can be found in many places in your home or yard. These places include crawl spaces, basements, plants (indoors and outdoors), grass trimmings, mulch, log piles, and piles of leaves.
Almost any kind of animal will feed on woodlice including frogs, toads, and even other insects like centipedes. Amphibians love pill bugs because their exoskeleton is made up of calcium. Interestingly, the woodlouse spider has a special diet and woodlice are the only insects on the menu.
Female woodlice lay up to two dozen eggs at a time. They carry them around in their pouches, similar to kangaroos. Females can lay up to three broods per year.
As small as these insects are, it seems that their lifespan would be relatively short, but woodlice can actually live up to two years. So, if one female woodlouse produces three broods each year of her life, you're looking at 72 new woodlice crawling around your garden. Now imagine if a couple hundred of her sisters and cousins start families of their own. Kind of makes you want to get rid of these little pests, right?
Tips to Get Rid of Woodlice:
¢ If you have a small infestation of woodlice inside your home, vacuuming them up is a quick and easy solution. But, if you notice a lot of these pill bugs crawling around, you'll need a stronger treatment.
¢ Spraying woodlice with aerosol insecticide spray will kill them. The only problem with this treatment is that it's only a temporary solution. Any other woodlice that are hiding in crevices, cracks, or corners may crawl out later.
¢ Insecticides can be sprayed indoors in heavily populated areas. Try spraying an insecticide in the small cracks in your foundation or walls to kill the bugs at their source of entrance.
¢ Disperse decaying plant matter throughout your garden. This is the top food choice for woodlice, and it will deter them from eating your healthy plants. Oddly enough, they'd rather eat decomposing material instead of live plants. This solution will only appease the mini monsters, though.
¢ Limit the frequency of watering your garden. The moister your soil is, the happier the woodlice will be.
¢ Spread diatomaceous earth over the mulch in your garden. Make sure you are using the horticultural kind, and not the kind for pool filters. Woodlice will attempt to crawl over the diatomaceous earth and it will wear down protective covering. This, in turn, will limit the amount of moisture they can retain.
¢ Treat plants with Talstar Pro. This is a long-lasting product that can be used safely on ornamental plants.
¢ Use an insecticide on your soil that contains an organic compound called spinosad. This element actually helps to keep away slugs and snails, in addition to woodlice.
¢ This unusual trick may actually save your plants. Take a few plastic drinking straws and cut them in half. Stick the halves in the soil surrounding your plant. Make sure you put the plastic close to the plant. Woodlice will not be able to crawl up or chew the plastic, so you may be able to deter them from eating up your precious azaleas or tomato plants.