The Q&A Archives: Sowbugs

Question: How do you get rid of them, and keep them away?

Answer: Pillbugs ("rolypolies") are critters you want to keep, not discourage. In fact, they're part of the offensive frontline when it comes to converting kitchen and yard waste into compost. These little bugs are actually crustaceans, which means they're related to shrimp and lobster. Pillbugs are virtually identical to sowbugs, with one exception: when disturbed or threatened, the pillbug rolls into a ball; the sowbug can't roll. Pillbugs need some moisture to survive. Although they breathe air, they can't close their breathing tubes, which means that if things get really dry, they die. That's why they're most often found in moist environments such as under mulch, stones or other shelter.

Occasionally they munch on things that grow close to the ground and provide plenty of shade, such as strawberries, but they do so little damage that they're hardly worth destroying. If they bother you, cut back on watering for a few days, and the tiny crustaceans will cruise elsewhere.

Since they thrive in moist places, you can further control them by removing hiding places such as piles of leaves, grass clippings, mulch in flower beds, fallen fruit, pet droppings, boxes, boards, stones and other debris from the garden.

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