The Q&A Archives: Sowbug Elimination

Question: How do you get rid of sow bugs. They look harmless, but I think they are eating the leaves on the primroses and other leafy plants.

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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