Sow Bugs

If you notice a bug that looks like a pill bug or “roly poly”, but it doesn’t seem to be able to roll up, you have most likely happened upon a sowbug. Sowbugs are actually land-living crustraceans that have more in common with shrimp than they do with ants. As the only land-living crustacean, sowbugs breathe through their gills, so they need a constant source of moisture to stay alive. Although they will not eat through your home or bite the people who live there, dealing with a sowbug infestation is no picnic. 

Sow bugs

How can I identify a sow bug?

Although they are related to shrimp, sowbugs do not resemble them, and they certainly do not come with a side of cocktail sauce. They look more like pill bugs that curl up in a ball when they sense danger. A sowbug measures about one centimeter in length, with a round top and a flat bottom, and they are oval in shape. With seven pairs of legs and two pairs of antennae, their overlapping plated segments are most often dark brown. Additionally, they have two tail-like appendages. 

What is their growth and development like?

The breeding of sowbugs occurs throughout the year, and the males grasp the females using special appendages, sometimes hanging on for months at a time. During this time the sperm is transferred from male to female, and one to 10 months later, fertilization occurs. At this time, the eggs enter the brood pouch where they develop. Even after they hatch, the sowbugs can stay in the pouch for up to a month. Once the new sowbugs are hatched, they look like a miniature version of the adults. Incredibly, there are 15 stages these creatures must go through to reach maturity. Their lifespan, for the most part, is one year in duration.

What do they want?

Sowbugs crave humidity, darkness, and decay. They are scavengers who feed on dead or injured creatures. Because they breathe through their gills, it is imperative that they find a dark, moist environment in which to live that will offer them food and water. Any place that can offer them humidity and something decaying to feed on is a great bet for them, so they will look for garbage, moisture, and other dank places. If they get into your house, they will head toward humid basements, damp garages or humidity-filled crawl spaces. As long as they have moisture to breathe through their gills and decayed plant matter to feed on, they will be satisfied. 

Where do they live?

In nature, sowbugs live in damp environments and you can find them under piles of leaves, rocks, or mulch. And since they are nocturnal, during the night you will find them skittering across your patio or wood pile too. If they get into your house, this means that they will often find their way into basements, sheds, garages, and any places that offer a damp, dark environment. They are opportunistic, and will sneak in through any crevices or cracks in your foundation to get to the humid parts of your basement, garage, or kitchen.

How can I prevent sow bugs?

Like most problematic bugs, it is much better to stop sowbugs from entering your home than to try to eradicate them once they are living there. To that end, make sure the entrances of your home are secure, as sowbugs generally enter through sliding doors on the first floor, or through cracks and crevices in your foundation. Additionally, since they are attracted to moisture, ensure that your home stays as dry as possible. 

Besides securing your foundation, there are a few additional tips that can help you keep sow bugs at bay. Take out any garbage immediately, as the dark, moist garbage can with decaying matter is the perfect home for a sowbug. Secondly, fix broken or leaky pipes that might cause water damage, making a perfect breeding ground for the moisture-seeking bugs. Finally, use mulch in your plants or garden that allows water to pass through easily. Following these tips will help you prevent sowbugs in your home. 

How problematic are these pests?

Although these bugs will not sting or bite you or eat through your furniture, sowbugs are pesky creatures that will try to get into your home. Just knowing that there are crustaceans crawling around is daunting enough, but if they find the roots of your plants they will likely damage them as they seek the moisture of the dirt. The presence of sowbugs probably also signals a larger problem with moisture that you will have to deal with. 

How can I treat a sow bug infestation?

If you see sowbugs in your home, likely there are many more around. In order to get rid of a sow bug infestation, you need to get rid of what they are always seeking out—dampness. They need to stay well-hydrated, and if they can’t find that hydration with you they will seek other sources. One way to treat an infestation is to make sure that you have a dehumidifier in your home. This ensures that you can control the level of moisture in your home. Additionally, diatomaceous earth is a product that will absorb moisture and kill sowbugs. Spread it across your basement or crawl space floor and it will lead to fewer bugs. Since it is no fun for the bugs to crawl across, it will act as a repellent. Another natural type of deterrent is a garlic and water solution or a pepper solution. Both of these will repel sowbugs and help to keep your home pest free. 

But if your home is very damp, and the ugly little sow bugs have infiltrated your home, you might not have the patience and time needed to get rid of all of them by yourself. Request a free estimate today!


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