The Q&A Archives: Roly Poly Bugs

Question: I have had two yarrow plants that withered and died, and
now a dusty miller is withering. I found that the ground around the root base was infested with what I have always called roly poly bugs. Now they are in my purple wave petunias and one plant is showing signs of wilt. Could the bugs be causing this if so what should I use to get rid of them? I always thought that these were innocent bugs.

Answer: Sowbugs feed primarily on decaying plant material and are very important in the process of decomposing organic matter in the garden. However, they may occasionally feed on seedlings, new roots, and leaves that are touching damp soil surfaces. Sowbugs breathe through gills and require a moist environment. Try to limit moisture on the soil surface by using a coarse mulching material such as bark mulch that will allow moisture to pass quickly through, down into the soil. Also try to remove old decaying leaves from the plants, and eliminate hiding places in the garden such as boards, flowerpots and groundcovers like ivy. Black plastic mulches are also helpful in discouraging sowbugs because they eliminate soil dampness and get too hot in the summertime to provide shelter for sowbugs. You can also spread sharp sand or diatomaceous Earth around plantings to discourage these bugs. They don't like the sharp edges of these materials, but both materials will have to be reapplied after a rain.

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