Pillbugs are slightly elongated, wingless isopods that are about half an inch long. Their body segments look like armored plates with slate-gray as their color. A pillbug or “roly-poly” as it’s sometimes called, has three body parts: thorax, head, and abdomen. A pillbug also has 7 pairs of legs.

Characteristics of a Pillbug

Pillbugs are crawling creatures that move really slow. They are cold-blooded as well, which means the temperature of their bodies is regulated by their environment. You can often find these land crustaceans in various places, but mainly in gardens and basements. They are common creatures, but you rarely find one as they prefer dark places with lots of moisture like under rocks, bricks, trash, boards, and decaying vegetation. Grass clippings, mulches, and leaf litter provide them with decaying organic matter, which they need in order to survive. At night, they emerge in order to wander around.

A pillbug can breed anytime of the year. Females carry their eggs in brood pouches under their bodies. There can be hundreds of eggs per brood. As an egg hatches, the young remains inside the pouch for 6-7 weeks. As soon as the young leaves, it never returns. There are species that only produce a single brood a year, but others produce two or several more.

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Are Pillbugs Considered as Household Pests?

These creatures play a vital role in the composting of organic matter. They are even more effective at breaking down organic matter in compost bins and gardens compared to earthworms.

Although pillbugs are not destructive pests, they will move under garden slabs and into your window frames and doorways because they accumulate moisture. The moisture may form because of leaks or condensation. Because there is moisture, there are algae, mold, and mildew which are the basic food sources of pillbugs.

An established colony of pillbugs will transfer inside your home when the levels of moisture outside are too high. The pests may also want to seek relief from either heat or cold from outdoors. It’s when they invade a home when people notice how bad the moisture problem they have in their living spaces.

How to Discourage the Presence of Pillbugs in Your Garden

Here are the best ways you can prevent the invasion of pillbugs in your property.

  • Limits dark hiding places that are moist. Clean up boards, piles of leaves, boxes, and organic debris immediately.
  • Water during the day, so the soil and plants dry out at night which is when pillbugs are most active.
  • Mulch only with coarse materials in order for water to pass through the soil quickly.