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Pestgon FactSheet

PILLBUGS & SOWBUGS:(Order Isopoda)

Pillbugs are commonly called "roly-polies". These are not an insect but a crustacean. They are about one quarter to five eights of an inch long. They are recognized by their characteristic, jointed, armor-like surface, like an armadillo. They are metallic gray in color and when touched, they roll up in to a tight ball. Sowbugs look very much the same and can roll up in to a loose ball when touched. Both have seven pairs of legs and two short tail appendages.

Pillbugs and sowbugs are confined to areas of high moisture but will travel on dry ground a hundred feet or more. They enter buildings via the threshold or ground-level sliding glass doors. They are mostly nocturnal travelers. Occasionally these pests will enter a building in large numbers. Once inside they create an unsightly nuisance but soon die for lack of moisture.

Economic Impact:
Though not considered a serious economic threat, as with any other unsightly pest their visible presence is undesirable in and around buildings. Pillbugs and sowbugs are scavengers of decaying plant materials but can damage the roots of tender plants, thus stunting their growth.

Management Methods:
The key to controlling pillbugs and sowbugs is to eliminate the moist areas outside the building that make their presence and survival possible. In highly irrigated ground covers this is not always possible, so in cooperation with the landscape maintenance personnel, placement of properly labeled baits and micro-encapsulated insecticides are the method of choice.