Woodlice may look like insects, but in fact they are fourteen-legged crustaceans related to lobsters. Unlike their relatives however, they have adapted to living on land. Still, woodlice need a damp conditions to be able to survive. It’s thought there are about 3,500 species of woodlice in the world and about 35-40 of these can be found solely on the British Isles. Some species such as the common sea slater are only found on the coast. Woodlice are a common pest nuisance in humid climates and damp conditions, mostly in gardens and wooden structures.
It’s pretty easy to identify a woodlice problem, as they have very specific characteristics. The problem is catching a glimpse of them, as they are active mainly at night. A woodlice has an outer shell called an exoskeleton, which it must shed as it grows. The moult happens in two stages, unlike that of most arthropods which is shed all at once. The first back half of the shell is shed and a day or so later the front half falls off. Woodlice also have a pair of antennae to help them find their way around and two small ‘tubes’, called uropods on the back of their bodies which help them to navigate. Also some species use these tubes to produce chemicals which discourage predators.
Quick Woodlice Fact Sheet
- Woodlice are also commonly known as pill bugs, roly-poly and slaters. “Pill bug” and “roly-poly” because of its ability to roll into a ball.
- The pill bugs absorb water from the air, which makes humidity a key condition for their habitat;
- Woodlice are mainly detritivores, feeding off dead plant matter, fungi and their own faeces, but sometimes they may attack seedlings;
- Usually nocturnal animals, hence they are most active at night;
- Rolly pollies breed in the summer;
- Females can breed asexually, resulting in up to 200 young woodlice that live up to four years;
- Woodlice choose to hide in the moist, dark areas in your garden, such as under the mulch, compost heap, rotting timber, rocks, bricks, weeds, even in walls;
- Apart from man, its main natural enemies are spiders, centipedes, wasps, toads and shrews.
- Woodlice presence inside a property may indicate a dampness problem;
Plants Preferred by Woodlice
Although the woodlice diet usually consists of fallen leaves, sticks and other plant debris, in large woodlice populations attack to these plants may be exhibited:
- Ripe strawberries;
- Other fallen fruits;
What Can You Do to Minimize the Chances of Woodlice Infestation?
Generally woodlice are considered beneficial in gardens as they produce compost and overturn the soil, but in large numbers (or infestation) and lack of food sources they are known to turn to cultivated plants, such as ripening strawberries and seedlings. On some occasions woodlice may be spotted infesting homes in search of moisture, in which case their presence can indicate dampness problems that need to be addressed as soon as possible. Either way, pill bugs are not regarded as a serious household nuisance as they do not spread disease or damage wood. Nonetheless, woodlice can be a nuisance especially to gardeners and home-owners and happily there is a way to minimize the chances of pest infestation:
- Optimize your composting heap – better heating will reduce the moisture level thus avoiding the needed environment for woodlice habitat;
- Watch the water – be careful not to over-water your plants and avoid leaving other water sources that might aid a humid setting;
- Move the mulch – keep mulch away from the garden and especially seedlings;
- Biological control – pill bugs have natural enemies aplenty (some praying exclusively on woodlice) such as the woodlouse spider Dysdera crocata;
- Woodlice trap – pieces of cut potato, orange peels, strawberries and grated cheese, wrapped up in a damp newspaper. Put the bait in a damp area of your garden and leave it until woodlice come to infest it. After they do, just collect the trap and dispose of it.
- Keep the place tidy – remove any rotting timber, rocks, bricks, compost, weeds, mulch or other objects that are not needed;
- Sanitation and disinfection – Book a professional disinfection service. Call Panther Pest Control now to arrange yourself a deal to completely sterilise your property.
We hope that this information will help you keep your garden pest-free and your plants beautiful as ever. If you have any further questions or need help with your pest problem, don’t hesitate to ask us for advice or assistance.