Sowbug Killer: All You Need to Know for a Pest-Free Home

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Sowbugs may look like tiny, harmless creatures. Often found in and around your home, they feed on decaying organic matter in the soil and gather under objects like flower pots and boards [^1^]. Though sowbugs are harmless, having them around in large numbers can become an annoyance to some.

That’s where “Sowbug Killer” comes in! This product targets sowbugs and helps you manage their population. Whether you’re new to dealing with these critters or you’ve been dealing with them for some time, this article will guide you through everything you need to know about effectively using the Sowbug Killer.

As you continue reading, you’ll learn about how Sowbug Killer works, its advantages and disadvantages, and its effectiveness in comparison to other methods. By the end of this informative piece, you’ll be well-equipped to make an informed decision on whether Sowbug Killer is the solution you’ve been searching for.

Defining Sowbugs

Sowbugs are fascinating creatures that can be found in various environments. Their appearance is quite unique, with a grayish color and oval shape. Let’s dive into some of their intriguing features:

  • Body: These small crustaceans have a flat underside and a convex upper surface. Their segmented exoskeleton is quite tough, providing them with protection.
  • Legs: Sowbugs have seven pairs of legs, which help them scurry around in search of food.
  • Tail-like appendages: At the rear, you’ll find two small tail-like appendages that are distinctly different from the pillbugs, their close relatives.
  • Antennae: They have two pairs of antennae, with one pair being visible and the other hidden.

Here’s a comparison between sowbugs and their close relative, Armadillidium vulgare (pillbugs):

Features Sowbugs Pillbugs
Shape Oval Oval
Color Grayish Slate gray
Legs 7 pairs 7 pairs
Tail-like Appendages 2 small tail-like appendages at the rear Absent
Rolling up Cannot roll up into a ball Can roll up into a ball
Antennae 2 pairs (1 pair visible, 1 pair hidden) 2 pairs (1 pair visible, 1 pair hidden)

Keep in mind that sowbugs are harmless creatures that feed on decaying organic matter in the soil. They’re an essential part of the ecosystem, and understanding their characteristics can help you identify them correctly in your garden or when you encounter them in your everyday life.

Life Cycle of Sowbugs

Sowbugs, also known as pillbugs, are small crustaceans that live on land and feed on decaying organic matter. In this section, we’ll briefly explore the life cycle of these fascinating creatures.

Mating and Eggs

During mating, males transfer sperm to the females, who then fertilize their eggs internally. Female sowbugs carry the eggs in a specialized pouch called a marsupium under their bodies. Some facts about sowbug eggs include:

  • Eggs are usually hidden and protected in the marsupium
  • The number of eggs a female can carry varies depending on the species

Development and Nymphs

Once the eggs hatch, the baby sowbugs are called nymphs. Newly hatched nymphs are pale yellow to whitish in color. Key characteristics of sowbug nymphs include:

  • They look similar to adults but are smaller
  • They develop in stages, shedding their skin as they grow

Nymphs reside in the same damp habitats as adult sowbugs, such as under debris, rocks, or leaves. They continue to molt and grow until they reach adulthood.

Generations and Longevity

Sowbugs can have multiple generations per year. Depending on the species and environmental factors, they might complete their life cycle within a few months or take up to a few years. Some key points about sowbug generations include:

  • The number of generations per year varies with species and climate
  • The life span of a sowbug can range from a few months to a few years

To sum up, sowbugs go through a relatively simple life cycle that begins with mating, followed by females carrying eggs in a marsupium. The eggs hatch into nymphs, which grow and develop into adult sowbugs. They can have multiple generations every year, and their life spans range from a few months to a few years.

Habitat and Behavior

Sowbugs, also known as pillbugs, are small crustaceans that have adapted to live on land. They thrive in moist environments and are commonly found outdoors in damp areas. Let’s dive into some specifics about their habitat and behavior.

You might spot sowbugs hiding beneath various objects like rocks, stones, and logs. They prefer these damp, dark locations because they help maintain the moisture levels sowbugs require to survive. In your garden, you might find them under flower pots, outdoor rugs, or in leaf litter.

Sometimes, sowbugs may venture indoors seeking more moisture. When this happens, you are likely to find them in damp places such as basements or garages. They usually enter through openings around your house like cracks, gaps, or crevices.

It’s important to note that sowbugs are harmless creatures that are beneficial to the ecosystem. They feed on decaying organic matter, which helps to decompose and recycle nutrients in the soil.

To summarize, sowbugs are small land-dwelling crustaceans that prefer moist environments. You can typically find them outdoors, hiding under objects like rocks, logs, or in leaf litter. Occasionally, they may enter your home in search of damp areas such as basements or garages.

Diet and Decomposition Role

Sowbugs play an essential role in breaking down organic matter and contributing to the decomposition process. They primarily feed on dead plant material, such as leaves, rotting wood, and mulch. This helps recycle nutrients back into the soil, making it more fertile for future plant growth.

Due to their diet, you’ll often find these critters in moist environments with plenty of organic material. For example, they love thriving in compost piles rich with decaying leaves or under a layer of leaf litter in your garden.

Understanding the benefits of sowbugs can help you appreciate their role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. As decomposers, they are crucial in breaking down organic matter, releasing important nutrients, such as nitrogen and carbon, back into the soil.

By consuming rotting debris, these unassuming creatures help clear up your garden while also aiding the natural cycle of decay and regeneration. So, the next time you spot a sowbug in your compost heap or mulch bed, remember that it’s hard at work processing organic waste and enriching your soil.

Distinguishing Sowbugs From Similar Pests

Sowbugs and pillbugs are often mistaken for one another, as both are small crustaceans that live on land and have similar appearances. However, they have a few key differences that can help you differentiate between them:

  • Shape: Sowbugs have a flatter body, while pillbugs have a more rounded shape.
  • Tail-like appendages: Sowbugs have two small tail-like appendages at their rear, but pillbugs do not.
  • Behavior: When disturbed, pillbugs can roll up into a ball, but sowbugs cannot.

Another common confusion is between sowbugs and woodlice. Woodlice are also small scavengers like sowbugs but are considered insects rather than crustaceans.

Here’s a comparison table to help you easily distinguish sowbugs from other similar pests:

Feature Sowbugs Pillbugs Woodlice
Shape Flatter body Rounded Similar to sowbugs
Tail-like appendages Yes No N/A
Ability to roll up into a ball No Yes No
Classification Crustacean Crustacean Insect

Remember that while sowbugs, pillbugs, and woodlice might seem like pests, they’re actually helpful in your garden as scavengers. They help break down organic matter and contribute to soil fertility. However, if you’re worried about an infestation, knowing the differences between them can help determine the appropriate solution to control their population in your home or garden.

Signs of Sowbug Infestation

Sowbugs are small, gray, and oval-shaped creatures that pose little threat to humans but can be annoying in your garden. They prefer moist environments, feeding on decaying organic matter in the soil. Seeing sowbugs crawling around in your garden can be an indication of their presence.

One sign of sowbugs infesting your plants is damage to seedlings, fruits, and vegetables. These pests usually focus on lower leaves, new roots, and sometimes even crop up on your fruits.

Examples of damage include:

  • Small holes or irregular tears in leaves and seedlings
  • Shallow nibbles on fruit and vegetable surfaces
  • Young plants weakened or killed by excessive feeding

In some cases, sowbugs may cluster around certain plants or areas in your garden, causing more noticeable infestations.

To confirm a sowbug infestation, you can check for their hiding spots:

  • Under flower pots, stones, and logs
  • In leaf litter or mulch piles
  • Around damp, shaded areas of your garden

In summary, keep an eye out for damaged leaves, fruits, and vegetables as well as clusters of sowbugs in damp, cool places. By spotting the signs early, you can take measures to prevent a larger infestation and protect your cherished garden.

Managing and Controlling Sowbugs

To efficiently manage and control sowbugs in your home or garden, you can apply various methods, such as insecticides, sprays, and natural treatments like diatomaceous earth. Here are some effective ways to get rid of sowbugs:

  • Insecticides: You can use chemical insecticides containing active ingredients like bifenthrin or permethrin to control sowbug infestations. Apply them according to label instructions for best results.
  • Sprays: There are numerous pest control sprays available that target sowbugs. Select a spray specifically designed for these creatures and follow the application guidelines on the product packaging.

One natural treatment you may consider is:

  • Diatomaceous earth (DE): DE is a non-toxic powder made from crushed fossils. It can be sprinkled around the areas where you’ve noticed sowbugs, as it can help eliminate them by cutting their exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate and eventually die.

For an environment-friendly approach, you can also try:

  • Pest control: Introduce beneficial predators, such as ground beetles, to your garden. These insects are known to feed on sowbugs and can help in their control.

Remember that these methods can be more effective when combined with preventive measures, such as:

  • Removing debris, leaf litter, and other organic matter from your home and garden
  • Sealing entry points to prevent sowbugs from entering your house
  • Maintaining proper moisture levels in your home and garden to make spaces less inviting to sowbugs

By applying some or all of these methods, you can efficiently manage and control sowbug infestations in your living spaces.

Preventing Sowbug Infestations

Preventing an infestation of sowbugs in your home starts with focusing on the areas around your foundation. It is important to check for any cracks and gaps, and ensure they are properly sealed with caulk. By doing this, you can keep sowbugs from entering your home through these openings.

Pay attention to ground level, as sowbugs prefer moist and cool environments. Keeping the ground around your home dry can discourage sowbugs from inhabiting these areas. Make sure your home’s surroundings have proper drainage and avoid over-watering plants near the foundation.

To further protect your home, consider creating a barrier of bricks or stones around your house. This barrier can make it more difficult for sowbugs to come in contact with your foundation, further deterring them from entering your home.

When it comes to chemical prevention, there are options as well. Some recommended chemicals for deterring sowbugs include deltamethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, or permethrin. Applying these pesticides around the perimeter of your home, particularly in late summer or early fall, can help keep sowbugs away.

Keep in mind, maintaining cleanliness both inside and outside your home plays an essential role in preventing sowbug infestations. Make sure there is no debris or decaying organic matter near your home, as this will provide a favorable habitat for sowbugs.

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Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Sowbug Killer

Unknown Spider
I live in Whittier Ca and have never seen a spider like this I have had it in a container for three days now and just fed it another spider. I have enclosed a few photos. It is red with a blackish-gray bottom it has fangs and is as a quarter when it’s legs are stretched out. what type of spider is this?
Lorena

Hi Lorena,
You should release this harmless Sowbug Killer back into the garden where it will do what its name implies, kill and eat Sowbugs.

Letter 2 – Sowbug Killer

red cricket creepy crawly
I found this meandering across a sidewalk in Davis, California. The blue tube is the tip of a medium-sized watering can spout which is approximately half an inch in diameter.
Thanks!
Talia Jewell

Hi Talia,
Your creepy crawly is not a cricket, but a spider. It is a Sowbug Killer, Dysdera crocota.

Letter 3 – Sowbug Killer

Mystery Spider, Utah
Hi,
My name is Sydney and I am eight years old. I live in Salt Lake City, Utah. My aunt caught this wierd spider in her bedroom. No one in my family has ever seen this kind of spider before. Can you tell me what kind this is and if it is dangerous or harmless?
Sydney

Hi Sydney,
This is a Sowbug Killer, Dysdera crocota. It is one of the few predators that will feed on sowbugs. They are harmless.

Letter 4 – Sowbug Killer

Dulce de Leche Spider
March 13, 2010
Dear WTB,
Longtime reader, first-time inquiring. Cleaning out the woodpile is always a critter goldmine, so I made sure to have the camera handy. Sure enough, this fellow crawled out. He was VERY adverse to sunlight – scrambled immediately for shade/cover – but I did snap a few off before he vanished into the tall grass. I’ve lived here (SoCal) my whole life and have never seen his equal. He had a quarter-sized circumference (sorry I couldn’t get a coin down for reference) and his back half looked like an acrylic nail painted with dulce de leche. I would love an ID and my wife would like to know if he can bite/is poisonous (she doesn’t want it dead, but just wants to know how afraid she should be). Thank you!
greg
Venice, CA

Sowbug Killer

Hi Greg,
Thanks for the nice letter.  Your spider is a Sowbug Killer or Woodlouse Hunter, Dysdera corcata.  The species is not native and was introduced from the Mediterranean region.  As with many other spiders, the bite is not dangerous, but it might be painful and cause local tenderness.  The Sowbug Killer is not aggressive, but it might bite if it is carelessly handled.

Thank you Daniel!  Your site rules.  I cannot wait for the book.
Because of WTB, I have totally started calling Potato Bugs “Jerusalem Crickets” which puzzles my friends but seems to comfort the wife…who is Israeli (and is anti-bug, particularly the abundance of silverfish living in her psych.books).

Letter 5 – Sowbug Killer

Painting the town red!
Location: Southcoastal Massachusetts
November 13, 2011 12:35 pm
This spider was in my wood pile amongst MANY others.The reddish and two-toned coloring seemed odd. Recently I encountered another with a very different shape (not round abdomen) that was even more intese color red(unfortunately that one was not around long enough to pose for a pick) My question is what spiders are red and do spiders change colors depending on what they eat, environment, embarrassment etc?
Signature: Afraid of my wood pile:(

Sowbug Killer

Dear Afraid of my wood pile,
The spider in the photo is a Sowbug Killer or Woodlouse Hunter,
Dysdera corcata.  The bite of a Sowbug Killer is not considered dangerous, but it is possible that it may cause local tenderness.  Many spiders are red, and without a photo, it is difficult to speculate.  Sometimes spiders change color when they molt.  In your area, the only potentially dangerous spiders are the Widow Spiders.

Letter 6 – Sowbug Killer

Subject: Startled sowbug killers evicted from compost heap 🙂
Location: SW Ohio, backyard compost heap
July 30, 2012 4:11 pm
I was in the process of moving a compost heap and overturned an old piece of plywood. Underneath were a zillion (nonscientific estimation) sowbugs and two very fat and happy sowbug killers. One was shy and ducked as I took a picture, the other was working on a tough-guy pose. Both spiders, along with a couple of others I found, were safely relocated to a more remote area.
Signature: Kitsa

Sowbug Killers

Hi Kitsa,
There aren’t many predators that will feed on Sowbugs, so Sowbug Killers, an introduced species of spider, are a very important component of the food chain.

Letter 7 – Sowbug Killer

Subject:  SPIDER FOUND
Geographic location of the bug:  HOAGLAND INDIANA
Date: 01/16/2019
Time: 10:10 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  WHAT KIND OF SPIDER IS THIS?  I THOUGHT IT LOOKS LIKE A WOODLOUSE SPIDER. JUST WANT TO MAKE SURE IT’S NOT DANGEROUS. LOL
How you want your letter signed:  JODI W.

Sowbug Killer

Dear Jodi,
You are correct.  This is a Woodlouse Hunter or Sowbug Killer and it is not dangerous.

Thank you.  Since it’s winter here, and colder than a witch’s heart, I have it in a small terrarium and offered some crickets.We will see if it survives, it’s worth the effort.   It it such a cool spider.
Thank you so much!!!  I was surprised to find it, they aren’t normally found in Indiana are they?
Again,
Thanks.
Jodi

Hi Jodi,
BugGuide does include Indiana in the range of the Sowbug Killer, and it even ranges north into Ontario.

Cool thanks so much, you are terrific!!

Letter 8 – Survival of the Fittest: Hacklemesh Weaver defeats Sowbug Killer

spider fight
I love your site, and frequently recommend it. I have several pictures I want to send you, but I guess I should start with these since I don’t know what one of the spiders is. The Wooodlose/Sowbug killer I know from seeing it on your site. The big black one looks a little bit like a trapdoor spider, but not enough for me to think it is one. I have seen several of them in my basement apartment, living in the walls or under the toilet. I have seen them making their rapid way across the floor in my bedroom and bathroom. They are quite large for this area, at least as big as a large Garden spider. Any ideas? I live in Toronto, Ontario. These pictures depict an exciting and epic battle between a sickly Woodlouse spider and a huge dude who came out of my wall. The outcome was never really in doubt. The Woodlouse spider, with his misshapen abdomen and lethargic movements, was no match for the black spider. Even on a good day he would have been outmatched. Red got bitten in the legs a few times and dragged back into the wall. My sister describes this encounter as her ‘worst nightmare.’ I have a lot more photos of this battle. Thanks for any help you might be able to give. Through your site I have identified most of the critters I have found in my apartment.
Tara Murphy

Hi Tara,
Sorry about the delay. Since we knew we would have difficulty with a correct identification, we posted some easier responses ahead of you, but the rivotting imagery you provided stayed in the back of our minds waiting to post this letter. So, we have no answer for you, but are thrilled to post your images in the hopes that someone out there can identify the victor.

Update: (03/26/2008)
Hi, Daniel:
The male sowbug killer is being attacked by a hacklemesh weaver in the family Amaurobiidae, not sure which genus. Wicked fangs on both!
Eric

Letter 9 – Woodlouse Hunter

Subject: Weird little red dude
Location: Portland, oregon
March 25, 2017 6:47 pm
Hi,
I live in Portland Oregon and today I spotted this little dude outside trying to crawl into the garage. I’d say he was the size of a dime.
Can’t figure out what he is!
Signature: Sarah

Woodlouse Hunter

Dear Sarah,
This BugGuide image is nearly identical to your Woodlouse Hunter,
Dysdera crocata, is “The only member of the family in NA” according to BugGuide.  BugGuide also notes:  “Introduced to North America and widely distributed in the Neartic” and “Primary prey is isopods; hence the large chelicerae and fangs.”

Authors

  • 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.

    View all posts
  • 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.

    View all posts
Tags: Sowbug Killers

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