Exploring Sowbugs: An In-Depth Look at a Fascinating Creature

Sowbugs are fascinating little creatures that you might have come across in damp areas around your home or garden. Belonging to the Porcellio species, sowbugs are not insects but actually crustaceans, more closely related to crabs and shrimp Common Insects and Mites: Sowbugs, pillbugs, and millipedes. These gray critters prefer very damp environments and have an oval shape, sporting overlapping plates on their backs.

They may be small, but their biology is quite unique, which sets them apart from many other creatures you typically find around your home. These crustaceans have fourteen legs and are equipped with two pairs of antennae Sowbugs, millipedes and centipedes | UMN Extension. By getting to know more about sowbugs, you can better understand their habits, where they are likely to be found, and how to manage their presence if necessary.

Understanding Sowbugs

Sowbugs are fascinating crustaceans that have adapted to live on land. They have a unique appearance, resembling small armadillo bugs. Here’s what you need to know about these interesting creatures.

Their size varies, but they typically measure between 1/2 to 3/4 inches long. Sowbugs have a flat shape with a convex back and a flat belly. Their armor resembles that of an armadillo, giving them a distinctive look.

One notable feature of sowbugs is their seven pairs of legs. These legs help them move around in search of decaying organic materials to feed on. You’ll also notice a pair of antennae on their heads, which aid in their sensory perception.

Here’s a quick comparison table of common crustaceans:

Crustacean Size Appendages Distinctive Features
Sowbugs 1/2 to 3/4 inches long Seven pairs of legs, one pair of antennae Armadillo-like armor, gray in color, flat shape
Pillbugs 1/2 to 3/4 inches long Seven pairs of legs, one pair of antennae Can roll into a ball, bluish-black color

Now let’s list some more characteristics of sowbugs:

  • They prefer damp areas to live in.
  • They are nocturnal creatures, mostly active at night.
  • They don’t have a stinger or venom.
  • They are harmless to humans and pets.

By understanding sowbugs, their unique appearance, and their behavior, you can appreciate the role these crustaceans play in breaking down organic matter in our environment. So next time you encounter a sowbug, take a moment to observe its interesting features and habits.

Sowbugs Vs. Pillbugs

Sowbugs and pillbugs are small, gray, and oval creatures that are commonly found in moist areas around your home. While they might look similar, there are some key differences between the two that you should be aware of.


  • Have two small, tail-like appendages at the rear end of the body
  • Can’t roll up into a ball
  • More commonly found in damp, outdoor areas
  • Also known as woodlouse or slater


  • Do not have tail-like appendages
  • Can roll up into a ball when disturbed, hence the nickname “roly-poly”
  • Sometimes find their way indoors
  • Closely related to sowbugs but physically quite distinct

Here is a simple comparison table to help you differentiate:

Characteristic Sowbugs Pillbugs
Appendages 2 tail-like appendages None
Rolling Can’t roll into a ball Can roll into a ball
Habitat Mostly outdoor, damp areas Indoor & outdoor
Nicknames Woodlouse, Slater Roly-poly

Both sowbugs and pillbugs belong to the same crustacean family and are more closely related to lobsters than insects. They both require moisture to breathe, as they have gill-like structures to extract oxygen from the air.

Now that you know the primary distinctions between sowbugs and pillbugs, you’ll be better equipped to identify these small, gray creatures when you come across them in your surroundings.

Growth and Development of Sowbugs

Life Cycle

Sowbugs go through a fascinating life cycle. They start as eggs, which are carried in a special pouch called a marsupium. Within this pouch, the eggs hatch into young sowbugs that resemble smaller, paler versions of adults. These juveniles remain in the pouch for up to two months after hatching.

As they grow, they undergo several molting stages. This process takes about a year before they reach adulthood. Adult sowbugs are typically gray in color and 1/2 to 3/4 inch long. They have the ability to reproduce and lay eggs, allowing the cycle to continue.

Diet and Habits

Sowbugs possess an essential role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. They are scavengers that feed on organic debris, such as:

  • Decaying plants
  • Organic waste
  • Decaying matter
  • Decaying organic matter

This diet helps them break down organic materials, contributing to a rich and fertile soil. Besides, their behavior is mostly nocturnal, which means they’re active mainly at night.

During the day, you’ll find sowbugs concealed in damp, dark places like under flower pots, outdoor rugs, and in leaf litter. Sowbugs possess gills, so they require moist environments to breathe effectively.

To summarize, sowbugs play a crucial role in the ecosystem by consuming decaying organic materials and facilitating the recycling of nutrients. By understanding their life cycle and behavior, you can appreciate these unique creatures and the essential role they play in nature.

Dwelling Places of Sowbugs

Indoor Infestations

Sowbugs can infiltrate your home, finding shelter in damp areas. For instance, basements providing the moisture sowbugs crave are prime spots for infestation. They may enter through cracks, openings, and crawl spaces, especially if there is humidity or a leaky pipe nearby. In damp garages, you might also come across these critters hiding among your belongings.

Outdoor Habitats

You can easily spot sowbugs in gardens, taking advantage of the naturally damp environment. They enjoy hiding under mulch, soil, compost, or leaf litter where moisture is retained. Sowbugs may also be found beneath rocks, stones, logs, and flowerpots at ground level. To sum up, the key places where sowbugs dwell include:

  • Damp basements
  • Garages with moisture issues
  • Gardens
  • Under mulch, soil, and compost
  • Beneath leaf litter, rocks, logs, and flowerpots

Taking note of these dwelling places can help you identify and manage sowbug populations in and around your home. Remember, these creatures prefer damp areas, so keeping your living spaces dry is a good preventive measure.

Prevention and Control of Sowbugs

Sowbug Prevention

To prevent sowbug infestations, you can take several measures. First, address any moisture issues in your home. This can include fixing water leaks and using a dehumidifier to reduce humidity. Keep your outdoor space clean and clear of decaying organic matter, such as fallen leaves and mulch, as sowbugs are attracted to these environments.

Seal any gaps or cracks that might allow sowbugs to enter your home. Use caulk around door and window frames, or apply expanding foam to fill any larger gaps. Additionally, make sure foundation areas are well sealed, as sowbugs often crawl up under the siding. Screens on vents and windows can also help keep them out.

Some examples of sowbug prevention measures include:

  • Fixing leaks in pipes and roofs
  • Using a dehumidifier in damp areas
  • Sealing cracks and gaps in foundations
  • Installing screens on vents and windows

Sowbug Treatment

If you have a sowbug infestation, it’s essential to act quickly to control the nuisance. Treating sowbugs outdoors involves applying granular pesticides like deltamethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, or permethrin around your home’s perimeter in late summer or early fall. Remember, treatment will be less effective if food and shelter sources are still available near the foundation.

For indoor infestations, you can use a vacuum or sweep to remove the pests, as they usually die soon after entering due to lack of moisture. However, if the problem persists, it’s advisable to consult a professional pest control company like Orkin for specialized treatment. They will likely use chemicals and insecticides to eradicate the sowbugs.

Here’s a comparison table of prevention vs. treatment methods:

Prevention Treatment
Fixing leaks and reducing dampness Application of granular pesticides
Sealing gaps and cracks Vacuuming or sweeping
Clearing decaying organic matter Hiring a professional pest control service


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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15 thoughts on “Exploring Sowbugs: An In-Depth Look at a Fascinating Creature”

  1. Holy wow. I never imagined a viral infection could become so severe that it could change the hue of an animal. Chilling!!!

    • You are correct that because of the agriculture industry, California has very strict importation laws and fruits, produce and plants. The inquiry seemed to imply buying and selling within the state and not the importation of Pill Bugs into the state.

  2. We too call them Potato bugs here in Utah. Ive heard people fro other areas call them rollie pollies, doodle bugs, or pill bugs. But around here they’ve always been called Potato bugs.


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