Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > June 2017 > BONNIE'S GARDEN--Doodling Around

BONNIE'S GARDEN--Doodling Around

We’ve all seen them—we pick up a pot from the deck and these little oval things go scurrying.  If we touch them, they curl up into little balls.  When I was little, we called them Doodle Bugs.  Some of my friends called them Roly-Polys.  My grandmother called them Pill Bugs.  So what are they and what do they do?

Their botanical name is Armadillidium vulgare—because they kind of look like tiny armadillos.  But they’re not, of course.  Believe it or not, they’re not a bug either.  Instead, they are crustaceans—related to lobsters, crabs, and shrimp!  This is one of the main reasons you’ll find them hanging out in damp areas.  They breathe through gill-like structures so NEED moisture. They are the only crustaceans who spend their entire life on land.

Once in a while they’ll get into a house—particularly in damp areas, like basements.  You won’t usually find them anywhere else because it’s too dry and they dehydrate very quickly.  If you do get them in the house, check around your foundation for damp areas.  Make sure splash guards direct water out into the yard, away from the house.  Remove decaying organic matter such as fallen leaves, grass clippings or mulch away from the foundation (this will also help keep earwigs out—they like the same conditions).  Once you’ve done that, a sprinkling of Diatomaceous Earth will help keep them out.

If you do see a few clustered about tiny new seedlings, then be sure all debris and weeds are kept clear of the garden.  A little Diatomaceous Earth will deter them.

Now for a few interesting tidbits of information about roly-polys:
  1.  They can drink water through their anus.
  2.  There is a bacteria that can change a male roly-poly into a female.
  3.  Females can lay fertile eggs without a male.  This is a process called       parthenogenesis.
  4.  If you ever see a roly-poly that’s gray/brown on one end and pink on the other, it’s because it’s in the process of molting.  In their two to three year lifespan they will molt several times.  They will molt ½ of their exo-skeleton at a time.
  5. At the University of California, scientists have found they eat the eggs of stink     bugs so are looking into using them as a biological control.
They’re sometimes used by scientists as a biological marker for the health of an ecosystem because they are very sensitive to changes in the environment—reacting strongly to changes in temperature, even humidity. 

They do not bite, sting, transmit diseases or destroy wood, fabric, etc.  They live mostly on decaying organic debris, helping to break it down.  Very occasionally do they nibble at a plant—usually because it has a bit of decaying vegetation on it.  The good they do far outweighs any damage they do.  
Posted: 6/27/2017 by Bonnie Pega | with 0 comment(s)
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