The Q&A Archives: Eliminating Sow Bugs

Question: I am inundated with roly poly bugs in my vegetable garden-especially the grean beans. I suppose it is because we have had a great deal of rain in this area, and because I nicely mulched my garden with straw and old newspaper in anticipation of a predicted summer drought! I was wondering if Safer soap with pyrethrums is effective against these bugs. I have already spread diatomatous dirt around what is left of my plants and that has helped some, however the stems are pretty damaged and several plants have died already.

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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