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  • Writer's pictureChelle Hartzer

Crawling Crustaceans (AKA: Supposedly they taste good)

I grew up in New England (I’m a true Yankee) and one thing I really miss from there is heading to a lobster shack for dinner starting in late spring when they open. There is nothing like a fresh lobster that came in that morning and you pick out for yourself. If you aren’t that adventurous (yes, I’m talking to my mom here), you can cheat and get a lobster roll. But I will judge you.

So why am I talking about lobsters on my blog today? Because they are crustaceans. Around this time of year, we start seeing another crustacean in many parts of the US. If you read nothing else, please scan down to the end for this week’s lagniappe, you won’t regret it.

If you are still here, this week I’m talking about pill bugs and sowbugs. Yes, they are a crustacean in the same as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, prawns, and more. The pill bugs we are most accustomed to seeing are in the family Armadillidiidae and Porcellionidae which, unlike their marine relatives, are a terrestrial group. They have another common name: roly polies because many of the species can roll into a ball when threatened.

I mentioned that pill bugs start to be seen in later spring, early summer because they overwinter as adults. They are often seen after rain when they are escaping conditions that are too wet for them. However, they do need moist soil because they are largely eating decaying plant material. They are not an urban pest, however, they can be a crop pests when their numbers are high.

If not an urban pest, why do we care? Because when their outside populations build up, extra wet or extra dry conditions can drive them out of their soil habitat and into peoples’ habitats. They can sometimes come in on houseplants if they were living in that soil. Great news: they don’t infest structures. The lack of soil, food, and moisture ensures they don’t survive very long. Many customers are okay with that explanation. Some are definitely not.

Like any seasonally invading pest, simple sealing on the ground level will keep these out. If there is a way to dry out the area in a 2-3 foot band around the structure, that creates a barrier they won’t want to cross. For treatments, there are a few general pesticides with sow/pill bugs on the label. Your efforts will be most useful on the door bases and any other ground level openings. A full perimeter spray is not necessary.

These little critters are very good for the environment: they are tiny decomposers. When they get out of their habitat and into people’s spaces is when the problems start. Hopefully, most customers will be receptive to what they are and what they do. For those that don’t, the good news is these are mostly seasonal and will probably not invade all summer.

If you have some invasions you are dealing with, we can help you do that better and faster. Contact us to learn more!

And yes, supposedly pill bugs taste good.

Super lagniappe! I went down so many paths and found such great and funny stuff, check it out!

  • There is a band called The Pillbugs.

  • In the same crustacean class is something called a tongue-eating louse.

  • Other common names are woodlice, slaters, potato bugs, butchy boys, doodle bugs, wood shrimp, tomato bugs armadillo bugs, and boat -builders.

  • You can buy pill bugs!

  • The process of rolling into a ball is called “conglobation”.

  • They are blue blooded – instead of hemoglobin, they have hemocyanin which relies on copper (instead of iron) to move oxygen.

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