Sow Bugs and Pill Bugs
Sowbugs are land crustaceans which look
very similar to pillbugs, at least at first glance. Sowbugs are small
crustaceans with oval bodies when viewed from above. Their back consists of a
number of overlapping, articulating plates. They have 7 pairs of legs, and
antennae which reach about half the body length.
Most are slate gray in color,
and may reach about 15 mm long and 8 mm wide.
The pillbug on the other hand has a rounder back, from side to side, and a
deeper body, from back to legs. When disturbed, it frequently rolls into a tight
ball, with its legs tucked inside, much like its larger but dissimilar
counterpart the armadillo.
Sowbugs have gills
which need constant moisture, so they tend to live in moister
northwest climates. They are primarily nocturnal, and eat decaying leaf litter
and vegetable matter. They may also feed on the tips of young plants, so can be
considered pests, but they also help the environment by breaking up decaying
plant matter and help speed up the recycling of the nutrients they contain.
Controlling Sow Bugs
(see also Controlling
The presence of sow bugs or pill bugs in the living quarters of
a home is an indication high moisture conditions. This condition will also
contribute to a number of other problems including mildew, wood rot and
a good breeding environment for other insects.
- Reduce moisture or humidity level indoors. Use bathroom fans, stove
hood vent fans, vent clothes dryers outside. Crawl spaces and
attics need to be well ventilated.
- Remove excess vegetation and debris around exterior perimeter of the
sure that leaf debris (leaves hold moisture and hide the bugs) is
cleaned up from around the outside of your house. Keep rain
gutters and downspouts clean and in good repair.
- Instead of
chemicals, use a caulking gun to close any cracks or crevices at or near
ground level. Houses built on a concrete slab poured directly on the ground, can have more of a problem with sow bugs or pill
bugs if there is no moisture barrier under the concrete.
Built-in planters are usually a bad idea for many reasons. Window box planters and planter boxes on decks tight against the house
are good breeding places for many bugs.
- Make sure all your doors (ground level,
to the outside) are weather-stripped. If your garage is attached or
integral with the house, make sure those doors are properly
Watch for obvious moisture problems in the garage and bottom level.
- Keep soil levels well below structural wood around the home.
A perimeter pesticide spray may help break the cycle for a short time
but will not eliminate the problem permanently. Remember,
if you don't solve the moisture problem, the bugs will return no matter
what chemicals you use, or how much you use them.
page 2 for more information on Sow bugs, Pill bugs, Millipedes and
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