Betsy Levy had asked about controlling pillbugs, and I wanted to
offer a remedy I've used, and some URLs.
Pillbugs and sowbugs are those little grey, or pale brown, tank or
armadillo-looking critters you find in your garden under logs, pots,
etc. They have 7 body segments and 7 pairs of legs. The way I tell
sowbugs from pillbugs is, looking from the top, the sowbug looks
shinier and you can't see their feet. Also, sowbugs are
beamier--wider--and if you poke them, they don't roll into a ball.
Pillbugs do--and you can play billiards or micro-bocce with them.
Where I grew up, in SE Penna., people called them "woodlice." My Aunt
Lola, from southern Maryland, called them "roly-polys" or
"stickleballs." I had a nephew who ate them when he was about 4. He
said they crunched. Kack.
Did you know they are formerly marine creatures, who have adapted to
land? Wisconsin was under the ocean a couple-three times in its
history, so I like the idea of survivor crustaceans wandering around
still. Sowbugs and pillbugs have modified gills that they breathe
thru, and the female carries her young in a little pouch on her
tummy. Because they are oceanic creatures, they need to stay MOIST,
which accounts for their love for dark, damp places. If they get in
your house, they'll die, because they need damp. So they aren't
major pests indoors for most people. However, this doesn't stop
"pest control" companies from spraying the merde out of people's
houses just because they've seen a sowbug or 10 skittling around.
They eat decaying vegetation, and are nocturnal. The Menominee
Indian Sustainable Development Institute
teaches that pillbugs and sowbugs are part of nature's recycling
Here is Oregon State Extension's recommendations on non-chemical
control of pillbugs and sowbugs:
A really nice little article.
Betsy, I didn't notice them causing any damage this summer or
others, but that may be a failure of my observation. I have observed
them drawn to the traps I've made for earwigs. I make little
habitats for the earwigs, and then I can move or discard them. One
thing that pillbugs, sowbugs, and earwigs love is loosely rolled up
newspaper or corrugated cardboard, moistened, then covered up.
Another is to set out large flowerpots full of moistened grass
clippings or leaves; place them with the drainage hole down, and
cover the top with a board. The critters will come into the drainage
hole at night. A third trick is to lay a board on the ground, snug
into the soil, then a warped, damp board on top of that.
Set these traps out at dusk, remove them when the sun is high and
hot. For the board trap, remove the top board, and sweep them up
with a dustpan and brush. You can do whatever your inclination
is--for me, with earwigs, I always simply took them on a long walk
and shook out the traps. Others smush or drown or incinerate them, or
dump them into soapy water. Uh...I, well, don't. Karma and all.
With the woodlice, I have a grand time poking them to see who rolls
up and who doesn't, then pinging them around. With all due respect
for their ancientness.
Here is a more...chemically driven...view of the topic, from Purdue's
Answering the query, "They exist, I want them not to, what do I do?"
(Which reminds me of a Zen joke...another time.)
Here is an entomologist from UC-Riverside, recommending using things
like diazinon and chlordane to kill them:
Gosh. Too bad the man doesn't have a few tactical nuclear weapons.
Hope this helps, Betsy.
Michele Gale-Sinex, communications manager
Center for Integrated Ag Systems
UW-Madison College of Ag and Life Sciences
Voice: (608) 262-8018 FAX: (608) 265-3020
Community--that's what Jah say. --Alpha Blondy
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