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Would You Keep These Pills in Your Medicine Cabinet? – Pillbugs

Would You Keep These Pills in Your Medicine Cabinet? – Pillbugs

By Site Ecology Team (SET) and Wildlife and Industry Together (WAIT)

March 09, 2016

Pillbug on a rock
Pillbug (Armadillilium vulgare)
Photo courtesy of Gbohne

We get bombarded daily by ads on television lauding the merits of this pill verses that one. These man-made pills hardly compare to those that Mother Nature has had for centuries. It may bug some of you to see this printed, but there is an ounce of truth behind what is written. It may take a little investigating and searching but you can locate these in your yard or on our campus. You’ll need to focus your attention on damp, moist, protected areas close to the ground. First start looking under mulch, rocks, logs, boards, any good hiding place. Most likely there will be lots of them in all sizes.

You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m talking about: Armadillilium vulgare, better known to your kids as the pillbug, rollie-pollie, rolly-polly or woodlouse. A totally organic pill! Wow! Back to Nature! What fun these little creatures could have with your kids. Just think, a small armadillian-like animal right in your hand. Pillbugs are often found with sowbugs (Porcellio scaber). The best way to tell them apart, besides asking, is if they can’t roll up into a tight ball then they’re sowbugs.

Pillbug balled up
Balled Pillbug
Photo courtesy of Sanjay Acharya

Caution: These animals are classified as small objects and may not be suitable for children under the age of 1 or over 70. Parent supervision is advised to avoid children putting them into mouths, noses, or ears. Seek immediately medical attraction for an insertion lasting more than four hours. Normally, the pill bug will extricate him or herself well before then.

Let's learn a few facts about these isopods:

  1. Pillbugs are crustaceans, not insects, one of the land-dwelling (terrestrial) crustacean, a relative of the crayfish and shrimp.
  2. Newly hatched pillbugs look just like their mother, only smaller and whitish.
  3. A juvenile pillbug molts in sections, the rear half first, then the front a day later.
  4. Pillbugs have hard exoskeletons that protect them.
  5. Pillbug’s color ranges from gray to brown.
  6. Sowbugs on a rock
    Sowbugs (Porcellio scaber)
    Photo courtesy of Donald Hobern
    Pillbugs are found all over the world.
  7. Pillbugs eat decaying organic matter and often reside in compost piles that don’t get hot.
  8. Pillbugs breathe through gills and they must stay where it’s humid or damp.
  9. Pillbug can drink from both ends, you can figure that out on your own.
  10. Pillbugs don’t urinate, but pass ammonia gas.
  11. Pillbugs eat their own poop, coprophagy like rabbits do. It stabilized body copper load.
  12. Pillbugs curl into tight ball (conglobation) when threatened. A close relative, the sowbug, can’t roll up. Both require similar living conditions.
  13. Sick pillbugs turn bright blue, it’s a sign of iridovirus present, its the virus causing the cyan color. It’s not dangerous to humans.
  14. A pillbug’s blood is blue, because of the hemocyanin (copper) in their blood.
  15. Pillbug mothers carry their eggs (usually 24) in a brood pouch under their body. She doesn’t need to have a male to produce viable young for she can produce female young without the services of the male. Male young would require his presence.
  16. Pillbug predators include frogs, newts, toads, spiders, birds, small reptiles and mammals.
  17. Pillbugs look similar to millipedes but aren’t related to them. Pillbugs have six pairs of legs.

Are you convinced that Pillbugs are the ideal low maintenance pet for apartment dwellers, shut-ins, and others needing companionship? Few pets take care of themselves to this extent, only requiring a spritzing and vegetable scrapes periodically. They are easily trained to roll up and unroll, providing hours of clean fun.

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