Pillbugs (also called roly-polys) are tiny, dark gray pests that curl up into a ball when disturbed. Sow bugs are similar in size and color, but cannot curl into a ball. You’ve probably seen pillbugs and sow bugs under rocks, wood piles, or other places where darkness and damp soil can be found in your yard. Sometimes they can be found in garages, sheds, or porches if rain pushes them up and out of the soil where they live. Finding pillbugs or sow bugs indoors isn’t a sign of a large infestation, but more of a result of changes in their natural outdoor environment. Without organic plant matter, they will be without their primary food source, and die. Did you know that pillbugs and sow bugs aren’t insects? They’re actually crustaceans, covered in segmented gray plating. Neither pillbugs nor sow bugs aren’t harmful to pets or humans, so preventative treatments are suggested for homeowners with a low level of tolerance to occasional sighting indoors.

What’s the difference between sow bugs and pillbugs?

Pictured Above: Sow bug (left) and pillbug (right) Photo Credit: Missouri Department of Conservation

Sow bugs are closely related to pillbugs because they are both types of woodlice. Both pillbugs and sow bugs are crustaceans, making them more closely related to crayfish, lobsters, and shrimp. The University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture even states that “they are the only crustaceans that have adapted to living their entire life on land.” Although they are considered to be “woodlice,” pillbugs and sow bugs are not lice. This is simply the plural version of “woodlouse.”

The main difference between sow bugs and pillbugs is that pillbugs can roll their bodies up into a tight ball, and sow bugs cannot. Pillbugs lack the two tail-like structures on the rear end of sow bugs which allows them to quickly curl up into a tight ball.

Are pillbugs and sow bugs dangerous?

Pillbugs and sow bugs aren’t destructive or a health risk, unless their presence in your home bothers you. Without moisture, soil, and a food source, they will die within a few days if they happen to be indoors. They will not breed once inside and will not bite. The only downside to finding pillbugs and sow bugs in your home is that you have to deal with their presence. If you have a low tolerance for pest activity, it’s time for professional control measures.

Why do I have pillbugs and sow bugs in my home?

Pillbugs are very common household pests, so it’s not out of the ordinary to see one or two every once in a while. They look for damp areas within the soil, but the moisture found in a house is typically not enough to support them and they die within days. They usually find their way indoors through small cracks and crevices and simply by going over thresholds.

How can I get rid of pillbugs and sow bugs?

To get rid of pillbugs that you find in your home, simply vacuum them up and use the following steps:

  • Eliminate pillbug hiding places such as piles of leaves, grass clippings, mulch in flower beds, fallen fruit, pet droppings, boxes, boards, and stones.
  • Clear debris away from the exterior of your home, doors, windows, and other points of entry.
  • Seal low-lying cracks and crevices around the exterior of your home.
  • Drain standing water and moist areas near potential points of entry.

Pillbugs can be swept up with a broom and dustpan or vacuum cleaner, then put into a sealed bag and throw away outdoors. Also, try to improve any moisture problems in your home or around the exterior of your home and remove any organic matter or objects (like stones or flower pots) near the base of your home. By taking all of these precautions, you are also protecting your home against possible spider, centipede, and cricket infestations.

How can I prevent pillbugs and sow bugs from getting into my house?

Making the area around your foundation less hospitable to them is the best way to prevent pillbugs. This means that you should make sure that water drains away from your foundation by using gutters and drain spouts, or by making sure that the ground slopes away from the home so that the water does not collect around the exterior of your home. In addition to keeping moisture away from the area, you should also remove as many potential hiding places for pillbugs as you can. For instance, you don′t want to have stones or grass clippings, etc. right next to your house. Also, you can make it harder for the bugs to get in by sealing cracks and crevices, especially around doors and low windows.

What are Pillbugs and Sow Bugs? Professional Pest Control Services in Tracy CA


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