The Q&A Archives: Roly-poly Bugs

Question: My kids play with a type of small dark bug that rolls up into a ball when they pick it up, so they call them Roly-Poly bugs. They have sectioned shells kind of like an armadillo--- I am wondering if these bugs are harmful to my garden (and my kids!) My lilac bush and roses always end up with the leaves notched all around the edges. They stand in lawn so I can't see any bugs under them, or any on them. What could be doing that and is there any organic control of these bugs? I also see some ladybugs with lots of spots, and some black ones with orange spots. Are these real ladybugs or bad beetles? Tabby

Answer: The pill-bugs, or roly-poly bugs, are usually considered beneficial in the garden because they feed on decaying organic matter. Sometimes the population gets so high that they end up eating live plant parts, but that's the exception rather than the rule. I'd just leave them alone and let them do their 'recycling'. They won't bite or pinch your children; they roll into little balls as a means of protection against predators. If the leaves of your shrubs have notched leaves, the culprit is more likely weevils or caterpillars. Weevils feed at night and caterpillars turn into butterflies or moths and fly away. Sometimes leaf-cutting bees will take pieces out of tender leaves to line their nests, or feed to their young. So, there are many possibilities for the notches in the leaves of your plants. The differences in the ladybeetles appearance is a matter of genetics. All ladybeetles, and their larva, are beneficial. They feed mostly on aphids and the adults help pollinate flowers. Sounds like your garden is brimming with life. What great discoveries you've made!

« Click to go to the homepage

» Ask a question of your own

Q&A Library Searching Tips

  • When singular and plural spellings differ, as in peony and peonies, try both.
  • Search terms are not case sensitive.

Today's site banner is by cocoajuno and is called "Here's looking at you."