Eliminating Sowbugs - Knowledgebase Question

Name: Amiee Staggs
Bloomington, IN
Question by astaggs
January 21, 2001
I'm an avid perennials flower gardener. I've noticed over the past couple of years that the number of bugs in my flower beds are growing in large number. Especially those little peskie rolly bugs that roll up into a ball. They are eating the roots of my plants and killing them. How do I get rid of them without using harmful pesticides in my garden? I can scoop up hundreds of them in a shovel. Help!

Answer from NGA
January 21, 2001


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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