Where Do Sowbugs Live: Uncovering Their Habitat and Environment

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Sowbugs are fascinating little critters that often provoke curiosity. These small, land-dwelling crustaceans are more commonly known as woodlice or pillbugs, and they play an important role in breaking down organic matter in their environment.

You might have encountered sowbugs in damp, dark places such as under rocks, logs, or piles of leaves. They prefer these habitats because they require moisture to breathe through their gills. This is also why they are typically found in soil, mulch, or rotting vegetation.

Interestingly, sowbugs are considered beneficial to our gardens because they help decompose dead leaves and other organic material, providing nutrients for plants to thrive. So, if you spot sowbugs in your garden or yard, remember that they are hard at work keeping your soil healthy.

Understanding Sowbugs

Sowbugs and pillbugs belong to the crustacea group, also known as isopods. These creatures share a number of features, such as:

  • Oval-shaped bodies
  • Dark-gray color
  • Multiple legs (seven pairs)
  • Land-based habitats

These bugs mainly feed on decaying organic matter, contributing to the soil ecosystem source.

However, there are key differences between sowbugs and pillbugs, like their unique appendages. Sowbugs have two small tail-like appendages at the rear, while pillbugs do not source. Additionally, you might encounter pillbugs curled up into a ball, which is a defense mechanism; sowbugs cannot do this.

You can find sowbugs and pillbugs in moist environments, such as:

  • Under flower pots
  • Outdoor rugs
  • Boards
  • Leaf litter
  • Soil rich in decaying plant materials

Though mostly harmless, these creatures can become a nuisance if their population increases significantly around your home.

As you can see, understanding the similarities and differences between sowbugs and pillbugs will help you identify them and address any issues they may cause. Remember that these isopods play a vital role in breaking down organic matter and enriching the soil.

Sowbugs’ Habitat and Lifestyle

Sowbugs, also known as roly-polies or woodlice, are small creatures typically found outdoors. They thrive in moist areas, especially in damp ground, leaf litter, and mulch. These tiny creatures love to hide under debris, flower pots, rocks, or stones. They’re often found near the ground level, hiding in cracks near doors or around plants.

As decomposers, they feed on decaying organic matter, making them a helpful part of your garden’s ecosystem. They can often be spotted crawling around compost heaps, where they have plenty of organic material to munch on. Besides compost piles, another common area where sowbugs might be found is simply among the fallen leaves and rotting plant matter around your yard.

Even though sowbugs prefer the great outdoors, they might venture into your home if the conditions are suitable. Basements and crawlspaces are their favorite indoor hideouts, as they provide a damp, cool environment that matches their preferred habitats. To reduce the chances of sowbugs entering your home, make sure to minimize moisture levels, seal cracks, and remove potential breeding sites, like leaf litter, near entranceways.

To summarize, when looking for sowbugs, check these places:

  • Damp ground or leaf litter outdoors
  • Under debris, flower pots, rocks, or stones
  • Compost piles
  • Basements and crawlspaces
  • Near doors and cracks around plants

By understanding the habitat and lifestyle of sowbugs, you can better appreciate their role in your garden’s ecosystem and take preventative measures to keep them from invading your home.

Sowbugs’ Reproduction

Sowbugs are fascinating creatures that reproduce in a unique way. Female sowbugs carry their eggs in a special pouch called a brood pouch. This pouch keeps the eggs protected until they hatch.

During the reproduction process, females retain the eggs in their brood pouch for about three to four weeks. This ensures the young sowbugs are safe and have time to develop properly. Once hatched, the young sowbugs will continue to stay in the brood pouch for a short period before venturing out on their own.

Breeding sites for sowbugs typically include damp, cool areas rich in decaying organic matter. These areas provide an ideal environment for sowbugs to lay their eggs and for the young to thrive once they hatch.

To recap, sowbugs’ reproduction process involves:

  • Females carrying eggs in a brood pouch
  • Eggs retained in the pouch for 3-4 weeks
  • Young staying in the pouch briefly after hatching
  • Breeding sites in cool, damp areas with decaying organic matter

By understanding the reproduction process of sowbugs, you can better appreciate these unique creatures and their role in the ecosystem.

Sowbugs’ Physiology and Behaviour

Sowbugs, also known as pillbugs, are small crustaceans that belong to the genus Armadillidium. They are commonly found in damp, moist environments, and are scavengers that feed on decaying organic matter. Let’s explore their unique physiology and behavior.

Where do they live?
Sowbugs can thrive both indoors and outdoors. Indoors, they are often found in damp basements or other areas with high moisture levels. Outdoors, you may find them under rocks, moist soil, or decaying leaves. They tend to be more active at night when they search for food.

Physiology:

  • Sowbugs are unique among crustaceans because they have the ability to roll up into a ball, which serves as a protective mechanism.
  • They have gills that they use for respiration, but they also require moisture in their environment to survive.
  • Sowbugs have tail-like appendages, called uropods, which help them move and sense their surroundings.

Behavior:

  • Sowbugs are scavengers that prefer to feed on decaying organic matter, which helps them play an essential role in breaking down plant material and recycling nutrients in the ecosystem.
  • They are nocturnal creatures, meaning they are most active during the night when they search for food and shelter.

In summary, sowbugs are small crustaceans that prefer moist environments and primarily feed on decaying organic matter. Understanding their physiology and behavior can help you manage their presence, especially if they find their way into your home.

Impact of Sowbugs on Households

Sowbugs are harmless creatures that live in the soil and feed on decaying organic matter. They are often found in moist, dark areas like:

  • Under flower pots
  • Outdoor rugs
  • Boards in the garden
  • Leaf litter
  • Basements
  • Crawlspaces

Even though they are harmless, you may still want to prevent them from entering your house. They can make their way into your home through openings near the foundation or through the first floors of houses. Common entry points include:

  • Gaps in the foundation
  • Cracks around doors and windows
  • Utility line penetrations

Prevention Tips:

  • Seal openings and cracks around your home’s foundation, doors, and windows
  • Keep the first floors of your house well-lit and dry, as sowbugs prefer dark and damp conditions
  • Promptly remove any decaying organic matter, both indoors and outside
  • Maintain proper ventilation in crawlspaces, basements, and other damp areas

If you find sowbugs in your house, there’s no need to panic. Simply use a vacuum to remove them from the indoor environment and release them outside. Remember, they are harmless and won’t harm you or your home. However, taking simple steps to deter them from entering your living space can help you maintain a more comfortable and clean home environment.

Controlling and Preventing Sowbugs

To control and prevent sowbugs, start by minimizing moisture around your home. Keep gutters, downspouts, and splash blocks clean to ensure proper drainage. Fix any ventilation issues to reduce moisture inside.

Some tips to further prevent sowbugs include:

  • Sealing cracks in siding, foundation walls, and windows with caulk
  • Installing door sweeps to block entry
  • Keeping areas like sidewalks and door thresholds clear

In case of a sowbug infestation, you can use insecticides such as permethrin or Sevin. Before applying any pesticide, make sure to read the product label carefully. Keep in mind that insecticides are more effective when combined with proper sealing and moisture control.

Compressed air can be used to remove sowbugs from expansion joints. Remember to handle the pests gently, as they play vital roles in the environment.

With these measures to control and prevent sowbugs, you’re on your way to a comfortable and pest-free home.

Sowbugs’ Role in the Environment

Sowbugs are small creatures related to shrimp, lobsters, and crayfish, but they live on land instead of water1. They are isopods that serve a crucial role in the environment by feeding on decaying organic matter2.

When you find sowbugs in your garden, don’t panic. They help break down grass clippings, fallen leaves, and decaying vegetable matter3. This process releases nutrients back into the soil, which benefits your plants. Sowbugs are most active during the night and can often be found hiding under flower pots, outdoor rugs, and boards during the day4.

In summary, sowbugs play an essential role in maintaining the balance in your garden by consuming and breaking down dead plant material. Their presence benefits both the soil and your plants, making them helpful companions in your garden.

Footnotes

  1. Sowbugs and Pillbugs | Entomology – University of Kentucky

  2. Sowbugs – Wisconsin Horticulture

  3. PDF Sowbugs University of Wisconsin Garden Facts – Wisconsin Horticulture

  4. Pillbugs, Sowbugs, Centipedes, Millipedes, and Earwigs – EDIS

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 – European Sowbug mistaken for Bed Bug

 

omg, is this a bed bug?!
Location: washington dc
November 6, 2010 4:59 pm
bugman team –
i found a bed in my bug, and im wondering if its a bedbug! so gross. pics attached. should i get an exterminator? i’ve done a thorough search, and i can’t find any other bugs in my bed.
guess this is what i get for having a strange boy in my bed last night.
Signature: strange boys bring strange bugs

European Sowbug

Dear strange boys bring strange bugs,
Because of a recent interview we gave on Sciencebase, we learned that in the UK a bug is a germ.  The creature in your photograph is a Sowbug, or Woodlouse in the UK, a terrestrial crustacean that is found, according to BugGuide, in:  “Dark damp places with rotting organic matter – their favorite place in a garden is usually the compost heap, where they are very effective decomposers. Can reliably be found under rocks and logs, too.
How it got to your bed or if it was transported there by the strange boy is not our concern, however in response to your question, you do not need an exterminator.  BugGuide also includes this remark:  “Not harmful to humans, rather helpful in cleaning up plant waste etc. Occasionally reported to eat garden plants, but generally considered beneficial.”  This was probably an isolated incident, though depending upon the frequency of strange boys in your life, it is entirely possible that you may come into contact with other less harmless bugs.

Letter 2 – European Sowbug

 

Looks like a pill bug but doesn’t seem to be
April 13, 2010
Dear What’s That Bug!,
Today I found the bug in the attached photo when I was pulling a weed against my foundation. They seemed to be going into the brick wall, where my bedroom is. The bugs are about a quarter to a half inch long and very shy.
I wouldn’t normally be concerned, but a few days ago I found one dead in the other side of the house (not near a wall), on carpet that has only been installed for two weeks.
I thought it was a pill bug, but it doesn’t seem to match the pictures of other pill bugs very well.
The one picture shows some tiny ants just above it (going into my house too…) there may be a symbiosis there to help with identification.
Thanks very much!
WBTtheFROG (we eat what bugs us)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

European Sowbug

Dear WBTtheFROG,
We will attempt to go from general to specific with our response.  In a most general sense, this is a Woodlouse in the suborder Oniscidea, of the Isopod order Isopoda, which is classified as the subphylum Crustacea in the phylum Arthropoda, which contains insects and their relatives.  The suborder Oniscidea (which is represented on BugGuide) contains several families, including the Pillbugs in the family Armadillidiidae which can roll into balls.  Also in that suborder are several other families with members that cannot roll into balls.  BugGuide says this of the family Sowbug Oniscidae:  “Sowbugs all have tails (uropods) that extend beyond their last abdominal segment. Most cannot roll into a ball. This family has three segments in the small, segmented end of the long antennae, while the Porcellionidae Family has only two segments.
”  Your critter has uropods, and it appears to have three segments at the end of the antennae.  The only member of the family illustrated on BugGuide is the European Sowbug, and it is reported to be:  “Not harmful to humans, rather helpful in cleaning up plant waste etc. Occasionally reported to eat garden plants, but generally considered beneficial.

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 – European Sowbug mistaken for Bed Bug

 

omg, is this a bed bug?!
Location: washington dc
November 6, 2010 4:59 pm
bugman team –
i found a bed in my bug, and im wondering if its a bedbug! so gross. pics attached. should i get an exterminator? i’ve done a thorough search, and i can’t find any other bugs in my bed.
guess this is what i get for having a strange boy in my bed last night.
Signature: strange boys bring strange bugs

European Sowbug

Dear strange boys bring strange bugs,
Because of a recent interview we gave on Sciencebase, we learned that in the UK a bug is a germ.  The creature in your photograph is a Sowbug, or Woodlouse in the UK, a terrestrial crustacean that is found, according to BugGuide, in:  “Dark damp places with rotting organic matter – their favorite place in a garden is usually the compost heap, where they are very effective decomposers. Can reliably be found under rocks and logs, too.
How it got to your bed or if it was transported there by the strange boy is not our concern, however in response to your question, you do not need an exterminator.  BugGuide also includes this remark:  “Not harmful to humans, rather helpful in cleaning up plant waste etc. Occasionally reported to eat garden plants, but generally considered beneficial.”  This was probably an isolated incident, though depending upon the frequency of strange boys in your life, it is entirely possible that you may come into contact with other less harmless bugs.

Letter 2 – European Sowbug

 

Looks like a pill bug but doesn’t seem to be
April 13, 2010
Dear What’s That Bug!,
Today I found the bug in the attached photo when I was pulling a weed against my foundation. They seemed to be going into the brick wall, where my bedroom is. The bugs are about a quarter to a half inch long and very shy.
I wouldn’t normally be concerned, but a few days ago I found one dead in the other side of the house (not near a wall), on carpet that has only been installed for two weeks.
I thought it was a pill bug, but it doesn’t seem to match the pictures of other pill bugs very well.
The one picture shows some tiny ants just above it (going into my house too…) there may be a symbiosis there to help with identification.
Thanks very much!
WBTtheFROG (we eat what bugs us)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

European Sowbug

Dear WBTtheFROG,
We will attempt to go from general to specific with our response.  In a most general sense, this is a Woodlouse in the suborder Oniscidea, of the Isopod order Isopoda, which is classified as the subphylum Crustacea in the phylum Arthropoda, which contains insects and their relatives.  The suborder Oniscidea (which is represented on BugGuide) contains several families, including the Pillbugs in the family Armadillidiidae which can roll into balls.  Also in that suborder are several other families with members that cannot roll into balls.  BugGuide says this of the family Sowbug Oniscidae:  “Sowbugs all have tails (uropods) that extend beyond their last abdominal segment. Most cannot roll into a ball. This family has three segments in the small, segmented end of the long antennae, while the Porcellionidae Family has only two segments.
”  Your critter has uropods, and it appears to have three segments at the end of the antennae.  The only member of the family illustrated on BugGuide is the European Sowbug, and it is reported to be:  “Not harmful to humans, rather helpful in cleaning up plant waste etc. Occasionally reported to eat garden plants, but generally considered beneficial.

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.

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: Sowbugs

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • That poor bug. The horrors it must have witnessed. Of all the dark, damp places with rotting organic matter to end up in…..

    Reply

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