Do Roly Polys Eat my Plants?

by | Feb 4, 2015 | Single Family Home

Pillbugs are known by many different names: isopods, woodlice, or roly-polys (spelled a variety of ways). They are Crustaceans so they’re in the same class as lobsters, crab, and shrimp. Although other members of this class must stay near water, roly polys have adapted exclusively to land. They have seven body partitions and are most recognizable by their ability to roll up into a ball. It is a defense mechanism that helps protect them against threats.

An interesting fact about roly-polys is that they have gills. They breathe through these by exchanging gases. But don’t submerge them in water because they won’t survive! They are total land creatures. Roly polys need moist environments to survive so they will often be found in leaf litter, under damp objects or under plant and vegetable debris.

A lot of people wonder: “Do roly polys eat my plants?” Since they are prominent in many backyards and gardens, they can become a large concern. Roly polys are omnivores and scavengers. They play a part in the decomposition process by eating dead or decomposing plants and animals. By doing this, they return organic matter to the soil. They do occasionally eat live plants but they will do minimal damage.

Fun facts about Roly polys:

  • Roly polys will carry their eggs in the abdomen and when the babies hatch, they will stay in the pouch for several days
  • They don’t need to urinate because they pass their waste through their exoskeletons.
  • They are often confused with sow bugs but they can be easily distinguished because Roly polys completely roll into a ball. Sow bugs won’t close all the way into a tight ball.
  • Their blood is blue because they have hemocyanin in their blood as opposed to humans who have hemoglobin.
  • When they are sick they turn bright blue!