The Q&A Archives: Sow bugs

Question: I have a strawberry patch and Sow bugs are eating my strawberries. I have Praying Mantis eggs but they have not hatched and I am looking for an organic way to get rid of the bugs.

Answer: Sowbugs (or pill bugs) 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. A final suggestion - you can trap sow bugs with dampened newspaper rolls. Set a roll of newspaper in the garden at night and the sow bugs will crawl in to hide. In the morning simply fold up the ends and toss the paper into your compost pile (where they will do the most good) or into a trash can.

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