Currently viewing the category: "Sow Bugs, Pill Bugs, Isopods, Lawn Shrimp and Amphipods"

Help please
After the last hard rain 10 days ago, these bugs have been coming out every night, they look black, are about 1/4 inch long and jump around from out of the grass onto my porch. They seem to be attracted to light, because each morning I find hundreds of their little dead copper colored bodies all over my front and back porch. In the 2 years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen them before. What are they?
Thanks very much from San Dimas, CA
Janet Boydell

Hi Janet,
You are being plagued by Lawn Shrimp, a colorful name for a type of terrestrial Amphipod. Terrestrial amphipods live on the surface (top 1/2 inch) of mulch and moist ground. After rains, large numbers of amphipods can migrate into garages or under the doors of houses. There they soon die their color changing from brown, green or black to red upon death. They migrate out of rain-soaked soil to drier areas where they usually end up dying. Most species are active at night. Here is a site with additional information.

Thank you very much!
Hi and thanks so much for getting back to me. By the way, your website is wonderful…my son thinks it’s so cool that you posted our question and then answered us. Very helpful and useful! I’ll pass it on.
Best to you,

Hello…nice and informative website. I had a bug in my bath tub this morning that I was trying to identify. It looks similar to another photo that someone took and you said there bug was a Crustacean. Is the bug I found the same thing?

Yes, Ryan,
You have an isopod.

Hey Bugman,
I found this bug in the house this morning. I live in Boise Idaho and I have never seen one of these before. It looks like a "Rolly-Polly", but was MUCH faster, and did not curl up into a tight ball. This is the only one I found. I tried to look it up on the internet and also in the National Audubon Society Field Guide with no luck. Can you help me out???
Ryan J
Boise ID.

Hi Ryan,
You are correct. It is a type of Isopod, a Crustacean, and is related to the common Pill Bugs you know as Rolly-Pollies. They generally do not do any damage unless they are very plentiful.

Dear Bugman,
What is the scientific name for rollie pollies and what do they eat? Are the on the website?
Thanks. Mom Adams

Dear Mom Adams,
We just got a question about Pill Bugs or Sow Bugs, which are Isopods, not true insects. The common Pill Bug goes by the scientific name Armadillidium vulgare. They are omniverous and eat young and decaying plant material. We had not heard of the common name Rollie Pollie until our student Betina mentioned it. Thank you for reaffirming that local term.

I live in the Northeast and I having a problem with these black bugs in my basement. I always thought they were called potato bugs but when I looked for a picture of potato bugs on the net, I realized that the bugs in my basement are something else. I would like to know what they are called. The are black. They have a shell-like back. They roll into a perfect ball when they are touched. They don’t bite. I use to play with them as a child. I have not seen them in the winter months. However, somehow, they find there way in my home when the weather breaks. Do you know if they have a name?

Dear Connie,
It sounds like you are describing Sow Bugs or Pill Bugs. These are not insects but Isopods, a group of Crustaceans. They are often numerous in damp places including basements and gardens. They are called Pill Bugs because of their habit of rolling into a ball. The Common Pill Bug, Armadillidium vulgare, is dark in color, often approaching black. They are omniverous, and feed on young and decaying plant material. Unless very numerous, they do not make significant damage. They have few predators because of a distasteful secretion, but a spider, the Sow Bug Killer, is a natural enemy. Here is a photo we just took in our garden.