Anyone who has ever turned over a rock or piece of rotting wood might come across these small hard-shelled creatures that resemble miniature armadillos. These armored creatures belong to the animal group armadillidium vulgare, and the kind that rolls up into a ball is commonly called pillbugs. Technically, pillbugs are known as isopods.
Isopods are not insects, but crustaceans, a land-dwelling relative of lobsters, shrimp, and crabs. Pillbugs are generally herbivores that feed on the fungi and bacteria that infest the roots of plants; they also feed on rotting wood and other organic matter. They hide away during the daytime and come out at night to feed, because their bodies cannot hold moisture.
Life Cycle of Pillbugs
Pillbugs are quite active. As parents, the male guards the family’s burrow, and both male and female gather food. The mated female keeps her fertilized eggs in a marsupium or pouch under her body for three days to one month. She may have two to three broods each year, each brood consist of at least 100-200 eggs. The first stage of a pillbug’s life is manca. During this stage, they do not have all their body parts. The next stage is juvenile; in this stage of their life cycle, they develop the seventh section of their body as well as the seventh pair of legs. Juveniles typically look like tiny versions of their parents after they are hatched, they may be white or yellowish in color. Individually, pillbugs can live up to two years.
How to Identify Pillbugs
Pillbugs are oval shaped or slightly elongated with two antennae and seven pairs of legs. The adults can measure up to half an inch long. Generally, they have a slate gray color and segmented bodies that resemble armored plates. Pillbugs or roly pollies have three body segments, head, thorax and abdomen. They are usually found in dark areas with high moisture.