in ,

Sowbug Organic Pest Control

Sowbug pillbug

Sharing is caring!

Sowbugs are hard-shelled land-dwelling crustaceans. They are not insects. Sowbugs are also known as pill bugs, woodlice, and rollie pollies.

Sowbugs eat decaying plants and other organic material in the garden including decaying vegetables and fruits. Sometimes they will chew on seedlings and strawberry fruits, but generally, they do not threaten crops and are important to the process of decomposition of organic matter.

Sowbugs are found throughout the United States.

Sowbugs belong to the scientific family Armadillidae.

Good Products for Pest and Disease Control at Amazon:

Sowbug on leaf

How to identify sowbugs

Adult sowbugs are slate gray or brown ¼ to 5/8 inch long with jointed armor segments and seven pairs of tiny legs. A sowbug resembles a tiny armadillo.

Some species of sowbugs that roll up in a ball when disturbed are called pillbugs or roly polys. But not all sowbugs can do this. Generally, all sowbugs are also referred to as woodlice.

Sowbug target plants

Sowbugs feed on decaying plant material. They occasionally feed on seedlings, new roots, and the lower leaves of plants that may be laying on the ground. They feed decaying vegetables and fruits laying on the ground.

Sowbug feeding habits and damage

Sowbugs will chew decaying plant leaves and fruit. They will also chew strawberry fruits laying on moist soil. The damage sowbugs inflict is not severe. Because sowbugs eat decaying organic matter, they assist in the natural composting process. They also turn the soil and aid in soil aeration which is an aid to plant roots.

Sowbug life cycle

Sowbugs reproduce both sexually and asexually. An adult female sowbug keeps eggs on the underside of her body until they hatch. Nymphs are small and white but otherwise, look like adult sowbugs. Nymphs grow into adults by progressively shedding their shell-like exoskeleton in two stages, first the back half, then the front half. After molting, sowbugs appear purple or blue.

Sowbugs are active and feed at night. They breathe through gills and require a moist environment. During the day they hide in dark, moist places, under boards, rocks, mulch, and decaying plants.

Sowbug organic controls

There are several ways to naturally, organically control sowbugs:

  • Limit excessive soil moisture in the garden to limit the number of sowbugs. Water in the morning so that plants and the soil surface can dry out by night.
  • Encourage air circulation in the garden; use spun poly or plastic sheet mulch to keep crops off the ground or grow plants on stakes and trellises.
  • To keep sowbugs from crops sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the base of plants and build foundations where bugs congregate.
  • Trap sowbugs under stones or boards, then remove them to another location or destroy them.
  • Make paper traps painted with a sticky coating such as Tanglefoot; then fold them tentlike and place them around the garden.

Related articles:

Vegetable Garden Organic Pest Control

Vegetable Garden Diseases Problem Solver

Vegetable Garden Organic Weed Control

Garden Planning Books at Amazon:

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

How To Grow Tips

How To Grow Tomatoes

How To Grow Peppers

How To Grow Broccoli

How To Grow Carrots

How To Grow Beans

How To Grow Corn

How To Grow Peas

How To Grow Lettuce

How To Grow Cucumbers

How To Grow Zucchini and Summer Squash

How To Grow Onions

How To Grow Potatoes


Parsley Worm Organic Pest Control

Lady beetle Copy

Ladybug Beneficial Insect