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Pill Bug Control – Differentiating Pill Bugs from Sow Bugs and Controlling Them

How to Identify the Major Difference between the Two Bugs

Pill Bugs

Pill bugs (Armadillidiidae) are terrestrial crustacean group in the order Isopoda, a family of woodlice. The members of this woodlouse are rather unique from the other woodlice families. With their ability to roll and form like a sphere when they feel threatened, their common name comes with it, some of the common names in different states and places they acquire are rolly poly, armadillo bug, boat builder, carpenter, cafner, doodlebug, cheesy bug, cheeselog, chucky pig, slater, gramersow, granddad and many more. Armadilidium vulgare is the most common specie among the family; and they are the common pill bug. Pill bugs can be identified by their round back from side to side and their grayish brown color. When they reach their maturity, they are likely to size not more than an inch. Female usually hold their eggs in their pouches until they hatch. The adults will grow to about 3/8 inch long and usually contain numbers of body segments.

Sow Bugs

Sow bugs or commonly referred to as joint-legged small arthropod animals. They are more likely related to crabs and shrimps but these sow bugs, in return, do not like them. These crustaceans are usually mistaken as centipedes, millipedes or other insects because of their oval body structure when viewed from above. Centipedes have legs anywhere from between 30 up to over 200 but these sow bugs only have fourteen legs, seven on each side and two antennae. They are equipped with gills, which gives them the need of having water in the air surrounding them. These sow bugs are considered to be helpful as they act as garbage collectors in their miniature world. Most of the time, they eat dead plants but from time to time, they eat dead animals. Their body structures are built to shield their soft inside like what most crustaceans are. These sow bugs contain two pairs of tail-like structure at the back end of its body. The only major difference you can see are the less hemispherical appearance they portray and these sow bugs are not capable of rolling to form a ball like pill bugs.

Both the pill bugs and sow bugs contain a shell-like structure exoskeleton, like snakes, their exoskeleton shed as they grow. The changing of skin or moult has two stages, the back half part of the bugs lost first then the front is removed two to three days later. In most arthropods though, it is quite different and th moulting process usually takes place in one process.

Habitat and Biology

Because these creatures are crustaceans, they are most likely to be found in moist-abundant environments outdoor, sometimes, though, they can be sighted in buildings. They offer no threat to humans, they do not infest food, clothing, wood, no diseases, no stings and they do not bite, they are just a nuisance in ones’ property especially if they appear in numbers. These pill bugs and sow bugs are night crawlers and during the day, they are usually hiding under stones, flower pots, vegetables, leaf debris and the like.

Pill bugs and sow bugs are crustaceans that are capable of living on land. Most of their kind though lives in or just around a water source. But these pill bugs and sow bugs are built with delicate gill-like breathing organs just below their shells that need to be wet to make it function. This explains why you often find these pill bugs and sow bugs under rocks, under logs, under flower pots, decaying vegetables, leaf litters and even damp sites or under bricks.

Potential places where they may enter into building establishments are expansion joints, voids of concrete walls, door thresholds, especially under the sliding glass doors. One of the main reasons why these pests can be located indoor is mainly because there are quite a number of breeding close to the foundation outside. Because of the essential factors they need to survive, they will not live long indoors due to lack of moisture in the place unless your place holds a place where moist can be a very good source for these pests.

How Can We Tell if They Are On The Move?

Pill bugs and sow bugs are usually considered herbivores. Because they love to eat fungi and bacteria that are locally found in leaves and vegetation that are decaying, most plants are affected by them. The reason why they eat decaying plants is because they are after the fungi and microorganisms that inhibit the plant. With this as their desired food source, parts of root tissues get chewed up. Once the root tissues get chewed up, the plant will likely get affected. If these pill bugs are not removed from the roots right away, the plant will likely die in the long run.

Pills Bugs and Sow Bug Control Methods

There may be a number of methods to control these pests and yet some are not effective depending on how you apply the methods. Others use pesticides to control these pill bugs and sow bugs but be sure to refer to your local place’s laws regarding the usage of the pesticides you are going to use. Some pesticides may be illegal in your place.

Keep the Place Dry

Because the pests just can’t live without water, try to make sure to minimize the moisture in your place. Securing the area near the foundation is the best option to do first, removing leaves, mulch, boards, stones, and other items that may produce moisture when left on the ground. For other things that cannot be moved or transferred but is situated near the foundation, just make sure to elevate it from the ground.

Never allow water to keep in a place where they can be found. Water should be diverted to another location right away if it is near a foundation wall and make sure that the gutters are functioning properly. Be sure to secure leaking pipes as well, check the entire area for possible leaks and do repairs. Air conditioning units should be repaired right away if found to produce leaks. For poor drainage and leaking faucets, repair right away and secure that leak. If you have a sprinkler, minimize the volume of water produced near the foundation.

Sealing Their Way In

The reason why they are in your household is because they got it through a crack or through basement windows. It will help a lot if you install thresholds at the bottom of all exterior entry doors. For door thresholds, applying caulk along the bottom outside edge and at the sides will mostly secure the place. Seal the bottom basement walls on the interior as well. Keeping them out and securing the entry points will lessen their entry points to your household.

Natural Predators Are Your Friends

Frogs, toads, newts, small mammals, lizards, spider, and the like are your allies, even their own kind are potential killers when the mold is still soft before they develop fully. Be sure not to get rid of them.

The Infestation Has Gotten Serious

In case you are facing a serious infestation against these pests, or perhaps your garden is hit by the number of these guys, applying Diazinon, Sevin or Malathion in and out of the perimeter will likely get rid of these pill bugs and sow bugs. However, if you are facing a small amount of these pests, at least placing a potato near the affected plant will do the job, after placing the potato, check every morning and you should be able to find these pests under the potato. Get rid of them afterwards and repeat if necessary.

To minimize the numbers of these guys in your greenhouse, make sure to elevate flower pots off of the ground and hang orchids, this way, they will have lesser moisture place to be treated as home. Remove leaf litter inside the area and possible objects that may produce moisture under it on the ground. Do this on a regular basis to secure the greenhouse always.

I Don’t Want to Kill Them; I Just Want to Keep Them Out From My Greenhouse

How to Locate Them?

Since they love places that moist be sure to water certain places in your greenhouse, look under flower pots, moist leaf litter, under paving bricks, under stones, and other things that may develop moist under it.

To get their attention, Place garden debris under the shade and water them, once they are watered, cover it with plastic, cardboard or just a piece of plywood. Keep it there and moist it for a few days. You should be able to collect them in a single area.

How to Collect Them after Locating Them?

Before you collect these pests from your greenhouse, be sure to get a container, spoon and perhaps a shovel ready, enough to keep them in one place while you collect the others.

So you left your trap for a few days now. You should be able to get them in that place. Have your container ready beside you now. Get your spoon and shovel ready. Now remove the object you used to cover the spot (the cardboard, plywood, or plastic that you used). Be sure to get ready as there may be pill bugs in your sight as soon as you remove this. Once you are ready, remove the cover and pick them up with spoon, then transfer them to the container. Once you got the first batch out, remove the stones and garden debris that you put one by one, soon after you will be able to notice that your container is filling up. Repeat as necessary and dispose them in a place far from your greenhouse where moist is abundant.

Insecticides Against Pill Bugs and Sow Bugs

It is rare to see these guys living inside your house for good. Once they get in, they will likely die due to lack of moisture inside the house, using a vacuum will definitely do the job but if you are facing a large amount of these guys inside your property, calling a pest control professional will likely be the best move for you to do at the moment. But if you are eager to get rid of them yourself, using an insecticide will be the best option for you. Using insecticide will definitely get rid of newcomers, apply these insecticides near foundation, this will repel the entry of the pests. Treating alongside the foundation will be a smart move as well.

To know which insecticide to use, refer to your nearest hardware store or pest control center for the best insecticide against the pests. Preferred insecticide types to use are organic, granule, aerosol, and liquid insecticides.

These are just some of the methods that you can use against them. It is rare to see a shelter of these pests inside your house because of lack of moisture. These pests, however, are capable of killing your greenhouse plants or orchids. To be sure that your plants will not suffer from these pill bugs or sow bugs, be sure to eliminate plant debris on floors and clean it regularly. Keep your flower pot elevated from the floor always; this will keep the pill bugs from hiding underneath during day times.

Whatever the methods you use, it is safe and better to control them before they infest in any part of your house property. So for you to ensure that they will never get inside your house, always close possible openings where they may enter even foundations, cracks, under the doors and other openings they are capable of entering. Spray insecticide near and around your foundation to ensure they will not go inside. For those who got pill bugs or sow bugs inside, don’t fret, as it will not stay long if you secure areas where moist will not occur. You can just vacuum the pests or pick it up, and then you can get rid of them afterwards.