Riley received a cute little Roly-Poly Playground for his 2nd birthday over the summer.  Unfortunately, the drought had caused all the pill bugs to go into hiding and we were unable to find any occupants for his new toy.  

After discovering a pill bug at the Arboretum earlier this week, Riley really wanted to find some at our house.  I decided that since we have been enjoying more rain recently, that perhaps they may start showing up again.  We searched in the usual hiding places - the cracks between the sidewalk and the yard were the dead grass makes a tasty snack for pill bugs.  No luck.  We searched in the butterfly garden and underneath a few logs.  No luck.  Much to Riley's delight, we were finally able to locate a few small pill bugs hiding under a rock in a shady corner of the backyard.  Hurray!
We carefully placed them in their new playground, complete with slides and climbing structures, and Riley enjoyed watching them crawl around for quite awhile.  I decided we should keep them around for a few days and asked Riley if we should build them a home for them to live in.  He became very excited!  He started doing a bit of shrieking and dancing and was very happy to help me carry the container outside to collect some dirt and leaf litter.  

We set them up in a recycled plastic container with a layer of dirt, dead grass/leaves, a tiny sprinkling of fish flakes, and a small bit of greenery and fruit from the fridge.  I'm not sure how long I will be able to keep them alive in captivity so we will most likely send them back to their home outdoors after a week or so.  In the meantime, we will have fun enjoying their company in our home as our guests.
Roly-poly, pill bug, sow bug, potato bug, woodlouse...what are these little creatures?  There are many common names for the pill bug and its cousins.  They are all a type of woodlouse - the only crustacean that can live exclusively on land.  Crustaceans??  That's right!  The pill bug is related to crabs, shrimp, and lobsters.  (Click here to see a GIANT deep sea woodlouse!)  

Among woodlice, you are more likely to be familiar with sow bugs and pill bugs.  The main difference between the two is that a pill bug rolls up and sow bugs do not.  Although they live exclusively on land, they still require a habitat high in moisture.  They have gills, like all other crustaceans, and require a moist environment to breathe.  This is why we weren't able to find any around our home this summer - no rain, no pill bugs. 

Pill bugs are not normally considered pests as they primarily eat decaying matter, but occasionally they will eat young plants.  They are primarily nocturnal, can live from 1-2 years, and the mothers keep their eggs in a special pouch on their abdomen.  
If you choose to keep your pill bugs as a temporary pet, please do your research and remember to be careful with them - they may have a hard exoskeleton but are still easily crushed.

Learn more about pill bugs:

11/11/2011 3:42pm

In the book, I'm a pill bug, it says that they eat concrete and that's why they like to live in the city.


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