Pill bugs are arthropods that are closely related to other Crustaceans like crayfish, shrimp, crabs, and etc. They thrive in areas of high moisture and can most likely be found under rocks or under objects that are left out for long periods of time.
Identification & Life Cycle
Adult pill bugs are about 1/4 inch – a 1/2 inch long that are dark gray in color. They have seven pairs of legs, a pair of antennae, and a two appendages that are tail-like appendages that stick out from the rear end of their bodies. Pill bugs undergo a simple metamorphosis. Pill bugs breed mainly during the spring season. Females will lay eggs that they carry in a pouch underneath their abdomens. They produce about 35 eggs at a time and will keep them in their pouch even after nymphs emerge from their eggs. The nymphs will remain in their mother’s pouch for about 45 to 60 days after hatching and will stay there until the y emerge from the pouch. Nymphs will molt twice in their lifespan before they are at full maturity and this can take about 1 year. The will first molt the back half and then molt the front half about 2-3 days later. They look just like mature pill bugs except for size, proportion, color, and their sexual development. Pill bugs have a lifespan that is as long as 3 years.
Behavior, Food Source & Habitat
Pill bugs may be the best known for their ability to roll up into a ball. This behavior is typically a defense mechanism. When they are disturbed, they roll up into a tight, round ball which differentiates them from other sowbugs.
Pill bugs breathe through primitive forms of gills, therefore, they are unable to control the moisture that may be lost through these openings. This form of breathing restricts them to specific environments which are high in moisture, typically under rocks, stones, mulch, compost, or other objects that are left to rest on damp grounds. They tend to remain hidden under these types of objects during the day and may leave their natural habitat at night to crawl around sidewalks, patios, and etc. They may invade basements of homes through entry points. Signs of pill bugs inside the home may mean there is a large number of pill bugs breeding on the outside of the structure. However, because of their strict environmental needs, they are not able to survive indoors for more than just a few days unless the areas are very moist or under very damp conditions.
Pill bugs are scavengers that feed on decaying materials and some may feed on young plants. Although they will attack fruits and vegetables, this does not happen often.
Pill bugs will usually cause no damage and although they may feed on young plants, the damage that is caused on plants by pill bugs usually does not have any significance. Sometimes, when they are in one area in large numbers, they can eat and damage plants in greenhouses or particularly in the southern states. They are essentially harmless and most of the time, people just consider them an unwanted pest. As a matter of fact, because they are so non-threatening, some people keep them as pets, typically among children.
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How to Get Rid of Pillbugs