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Exploring the Garden’s Ecosystem: Are Pill Bugs Good for Gardens?

The presence of Pill Bugs in your gardens is not necessarily a cause for concern, but the answer to if Pill Bugs are good for gardens is ambiguous.

Generally, the detritivores Pill Bugs feed on dead and decaying debris in your garden that helps decompose the garden waste. However, with the increase in the number of Pill Bugs, they tend towards being a pest by feeding on the live vegetation and young saplings.

This article will give you a clear picture of whether Pill Bugs are friends or foes.

What are Pill Bugs?

Many of us might have a childhood memory of a seven-legged harmless bug in our garden that would roll up like a ball when kept in the palm. That’s Roly Poly or Pill bugs.

Pill Bugs are tiny terrestrial crustaceans that stay in a moist environment and devour leaf litter and dead organic matter in the garden. Unlike normal insects, the Roly Poly is the land-dwelling relative of shrimp, lobsters, and crabs. 

These scavengers are important ecosystem decomposers, helping to incorporate organic matter and recycle nutrients into the soil, helping the environment as well.

Moreover, all the scavenging is done by the young and adult Pill Bugs as the nightfalls. 

Scientific NameArmadillidium vulgare
Common NamePill Bugs, Roly Poly, Woodlice
Colour Greyish brown
TextureSegmented exoskeleton
AntennaeA pair
Legs 7 pairs
Life CycleEggs: 0.7 mm eggs carried in a marsupium (brood pouch) on the underside surface of the female.

Young: Whitish colored 2 mm bug

Adult: 7 to 17 mm adult with compound eyes, seven segments and an abdomen with uropods.

Are Pill Bugs Good For Gardens? [Explained]

Pill Bugs are nocturnal, moisture-active creatures having more benefits for the garden and soil than the demerits. 

They are a part of nature’s garbage disposal system that voraciously feeds on plant remains and debris and adds to soil nutrients after the decomposition of the organic wastes. 

While only earthworms are predominately famous as farmer’s friends, Pill Bugs serve the same purpose in a compost pit.

Pill Bugs hiding in a pile of leaves residue.
You’ll mostly find the bugs in a pile of debris in your garden.

Apart from being detritivores, Pill Bugs moving in and out of the soil helps to loosen up the soil. This, in turn, helps the plant roots with better aeration.

But as for a fact, anything in excess does the opposite of good. Similar is the case with your Pill Bugs.

As the Woodlice population skyrockets, the debris around them can be insufficient. Then the insect diverts towards munching on the young seedlings and weak plant stems. 

The damage caused by the Pill bugs is relatively insignificant compared to other pests like Caterpillars, Flea Beetles, and Cabbage Lopper.

However, if by any means the bugs enter a greenhouse or closed structure having high humidity, it may turn into a severe pest infestation.

There are many incidences where gardeners overlook Roly Poly, mistaking it for a garden friend. But sadly ended up with no unaffected seedlings left in the garden.

How to Get Rid of Pill Bugs?

Now that we know about the ill-effect of Pill Bugs, we should think of eliminating them. 

While they still play a beneficial role in the ecosystem by breaking down organic matter, it would be best to focus on managing their population. 

Let us help you with tried and tested ways to limit the Pilli bugs population. 

  • Remove their habitat: Clean up any pile of leaves, grass clipping, or other organic debris in your garden that the Pill Bugs prefer to grow.
  • Manage excess moisture: Since Pill Bugs reside in moist areas, make sure not to overwater your garden plants.
  • Natural deterrent: While pest populations are yet to turn invasive, you may use neem oil to deter them from the plant. 
  • Beer trap: Place a container of beer around the infested plant. The fermented smell of beer will lure the Roly Poly into the container, eventually drowning them. 
  • Garden waste lure: Put up some decaying organic matter close to infested area. The bugs would gradually move on to the pile leaving the infested area. Using a shovel, remove the entire pile into a compost pile.
  • Physical barrier: Diatomaceous earth (DE) or crushed eggshells have a coarse yet sharp texture that harms the bug’s exoskeleton. So, spread some of these around the garden to discourage the Pill Bugs population.

Pro Tip: Using only one of the control methods may not give you satisfactory results. So, we recommend you trying a combination for effective Pill Bugs control.

From Editorial Team 

Seal the entry points!

You might get occasional Pill Bugs indoor visits if you have some in the garden. 

Close any cracks or holes in your home walls and doors before Roly Poly takes over your indoor plants.