What is a Sow Bug?

By Chris Williams on June 24, 2015.
group of pill bugs or sow bugs

Sow bugs and pill bugs go by a variety of other different common names like water bug, wood louse, or my favorite, “roly poly” (which refers to the pillbug’s ability to roll up into a ball as a defense against predators). They are actually not insects, but are more closely related to lobsters, shrimp, and crab. These mostly terrestrial arthropods belong to the order Isopoda within the class Crustacea In and of themselves; pill bugs and sow bugs are not pests in their natural habitat outdoors. They are efficient recyclers of decaying organic material.

Outdoors during the day they prefer to live hidden in areas with high humidity like under mulch or compost piles, stones, and woodpiles.etc (Sowbugs and Pillbugs – Potter). They are nocturnal and will often migrate from their daytime habitats and enter homes. Because they require high humidity, they prefer crawlspaces, basements, and garages. I have a cape with a garage under that is so damp during the summer months that I could squeegee the condensate off the walls. If I didn’t run a de-humidifier, the floor would probably be covered with them.

Like earwigs, sowbugs and pillbugs are not a true structural pest in that they cause damage to homes, but rather are a nuisance pest that will wander in periodically during the summer and often in great numbers. I’ve seen a few homeowner accounts with literally hundreds of them crawling across the basement or garage floor.

As with earwigs, the best non-chemical approach to managing sow bugs and pill bugs is habitat modification around the home. Reducing damp areas where possible around the home’s exterior by eliminating excess leaf litter and other clutter that is attractive to pillbugs/sowbugs (they like to aggregate under objects) will make it difficult for them to thrive. Exterior perimeter treatments with residual insecticides should also be used to control pillbugs/sowbugs. Interior treatments may also be necessary to help knock down individuals that have migrated into basements and crawlspaces. Contact Colonial Pest Control for more information on our semi-annual service if you are having problems with sow bugs or pillbugs. For more information, please check out the following link.

Photo credit: Wildreturn / Foter / CC BY

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