PillBug: Looks like a Bug, But it's not...
Common pillbugs are oval shaped and somewhat flattened. They have three sections to their body: the head, the middle thorax (pereon), and the end abdomen (pleon). On their head, they have eyes and antennae. In the middle pereon, they have seven overlapping plates. On each of these plates is a pair of legs. Adults are about 10 mm long and 5 mm wide. Juveniles are between 5 to 7 mm long. Most pillbugs are gray in color, with the soft underside of the body a lighter color. Some have yellow, red, or brownish sports. Some pillbugs are infected with a virus that turns them blue or purple.
Armadillidium vulgare, the common pillbug, is originally from the Mediterranean. It has been brought by people to almost all other areas of the world. It is most common in temperate climates. Common pillbugs, also called roly polies, are found throughout the United States, as well as Madagascar, Australia, South Africa, India, Japan, France, Canada, the Czech Republic, and western Romania, among many other places.
Common pillbugs can be found in forests, fields, gardens, and other suburban and urban areas. They live in areas that are moist, with temperatures that are not too hot or cold, and with little light. They can usually be found under rocks or logs, or burrowed in the soil.
Pillbugs begin life as eggs. The eggs contain yolk that the young develop on, and the eggs stay inside the female parent in a pouch called the marsupium. While still inside the mother, the eggs hatch into a juvenile stage called a manca. After 3 or 4 days, the mancas crawl out from the marsupium. After they shed their skin several times, they become adults. They continue to shed their skin throughout their lives, in a process that takes about a month.
They play an important role in the cycle of healthy plant life, They also are great for gardening, composting and for clean up of soil and protecting ground water from heavy metal contamination.
It is important not to introduce pill bugs into the garden too early, as they tend to munch on emerging plants. The grey soil workers often live up to three years.Breeding or collecting pill bugs may be an important practice for homesteading and gardening. The guts of these pill bugs contain a number of microbes that help the critter feed on dead, organic matter. By releasing mass quantities of pill bugs into a mature garden, one can be assured that dead plant matter is being properly broken down and returned to healthy soil.
Common pillbugs feed on decomposing plant matter. They also feed on seeds and feces. They recycle nutrients back into the ecosystem by eating and digesting these things. They can also cause problems for plants by feeding on seeds, preventing them from growing. They are prey for birds, spiders, and ants.
Common pillbugs feed on the seeds of agricultural weeds. This prevents the weeds from growing and competing with crops, allowing for more crops to successfully grow. They are also used in research, as they can easily be kept in very large numbers with little maintenance. They also help to breakdown decomposing plant matter in forests and in gardens, as this is their main source of food. This also releases nutrients back into the soil and ecosystem. Their activity improves the quality of soil, which can be helpful for farmers and gardeners.