How to Manage Pests
Pests in Gardens and Landscapes
Sowbugs and Pillbugs
Sowbugs and pillbugs are not insects but soil-dwelling crustaceans in the Isopod order, more closely
related to crayfish than to insects. Isopods have a hard, shell-like covering that is made up of a series
of segmented plates. Some isopods roll up into a ball when disturbed and are called pillbugs. Isopods
have seven pairs of legs and are dark gray or brown but may be almost purple or blue just after molting.
Sowbugs and pillbugs feed primarily on decaying plant material and are very important in the process
of decomposing organic matter in the garden. However, they occasionally feed on seedlings, new roots,
lower leaves, and fruits or vegetables lying directly on the soil or near a damp soil surface.
Limit moisture and decaying matter. Try to water early in the day so the soil dries by evening. Using
raised beds or planting boxes, plastic mulch, and drip or furrow irrigation instead of sprinklers usually
keeps sowbugs from becoming serious problems. Black plastic mulch may be more effective at discouraging
sowbugs than white or clear plastic are because it gets hotter.