Every gardener has a story to tell about rolly pollies, whether good or bad. Some have even complained of losing a large number of new plants because of them. Guess it’s no longer fun watching them curl up every time you startle them as we did back then when growing up. Here is how to get rid of rolly pollies in your garden.
Rolly pollies, scientifically known as armadillidiidae, are nocturnal and often crawl out at night to look for food. They thrive on high moisture places and cannot stand heat or dry places. This is why they hide during the day.
The name rolly polly is actually a nickname given to them because of how they curl up whenever startled, touched, or disturbed. You also probably know them as pill bugs, woodlice, doodlebugs, armadillo bugs, or potato bugs.
Rolly pollies are land crustaceans and not insects as you may have thought. Even from their appearance, they look more like crayfish and lobsters than normal insects. They are purple-grayish in color and are oval-shaped with seven hard plates on their shell. They are typically about an inch long.
In your garden, you will find them hidden in dark, moist areas with lots of decaying matter as they feed on the dead plants. And if they are already in your garden, you will most certainly come across one or two in your home.
These Isopodians will find their way into your home through the cracks at your basement, walls, or even doors and windows. They sneak into homes to find shelter and food during heavy rains and flooding. The good news is they can’t stay indoors for long as they don’t survive in dry places. They will always make their way in and out of your home. So to get rid of them from your garden, remember to also get rid of them in and around your home.
Rolly pollies don’t mean any trouble, they are some of the few harmless bugs. Them being in your garden, they are more beneficial but only if they are not in large numbers. If there population is high then they will be competing for food and eventually start feeding on new sprouts and the base of stems of new plants.
These crustacean relatives, however scary they look, are beneficial in two important ways.
1) By feeding on the dead plants and other organic matter, they help speed up the process of decomposition to increase soil fertility.
2) They are a safe way to remove heavy toxic metals like lead from the soil. Actually, you can clean up such a large area by releasing thousands of these bugs. Wouldn’t advise such a move unless its necessary though.
But if you feel they are a bother or their population is increasing, follow these steps to get rid of them.
Step 1: Clean up your garden
Clean up your garden by raking up weeds, piles of leaves, rotting wood, fallen fruits, and other decaying matter. As these debris pile up, they create a dark damp place which is the perfect breeding place for rolly pollies. Cleaning up the garden should not be a one-time task but a weekly routine if possible to keep the pill bugs away for good.
Step 2: Reduce the mulching
Reduce the mulching, too much of it creates a good breeding place for rolly pollies. They make for a perfect shading and encourage a moisture-filled environment for the bugs. Also, ensure that the mulches are course to let water pass through to the soil easily. This prevents water from staying too damp for long to attract rolly pollies.
Lastly, keep the mulch at least 6-12 inches away from the foundation of your home to keep the bugs from sneaking into your home.
Step 3: Ensure there is sufficient air circulation
Improve the air circulation on your plants by lifting up plants such as strawberries, passion fruit, and watermelons off the ground. As well, clear any weeds in the prevents.
Step 4: Apply DE to the surface of the soil
Apply DE, Diatomaceous earth, to the surface of the soil. This acts as a barrier between the bugs and your plant. DE is made from fossils of tiny aquatic organisms known as diatoms from millions of years back. These organisms have silica, a natural substance found in their skeletons. Once the bugs absorb this substance they dry out and die. You can use DE to get rid of the most troublesome pests found in and around your home.
When applying DE, wear a face mask to prevent you from inhaling it and apply just on the surface of the soil. Ensure that the soil is dry, any wetness and the DE will become inert. In case of heavy rainfall or overwatering reapply.
Depending on the population of the rolly pollies is in your garden, you may need to do a few more applications to completely get rid of them. Great thing is, DE is pretty effective and you can start seeing results in just a few days.
It is non-poisonous and very safe to use around your home and in the garden. Just be sure to buy food grade DE. Its always indicated on the package. The non-food grade is meant for swimming pools.
Aside from DE, you can also use organic insect killer granules around your garden and the foundation of your home to kill and repel rolly pollies.
Step 5: Put up baits
Another great way of getting rid of pill bugs is to use baits. Here are baits that have been proven to work by other gardeners:
Take a tuna can or any can similar to the size of a tuna can, and cut the opening. Next, dig holes in separate parts of your garden. Use a trowel to dig the holes and ensure they are wide and deep enough to fit the can. Insert the cans in the holes and fill them up with beer. Remember the can needs to be the same level as the soil surface. The bait here is the smell of beer as it evaporates. It attracts the bugs into the can where they drown and die.
Keep pouring out the beer with the dead bugs and replacing them with fresh beer until the bugs are all gone. If your heart breaks every time you pour out the beer, ( don’t worry, this happens to every beer lover), you can use cornmeal placed in sealed plastic food containers. Once they ingest the cornmeal, they develop digestion problems and die.
Using a corn cob
Take a maize cob and set it in a place where there are lots of rolly pollies. When they gather around to feast on the cob, wear your gloves and take the whole cob with the bugs, and throw it into a trash bag. Tightly seal and dispose of in a garbage can.
Using a hallowed potato or cantaloupe
Take a large potato and cut it hollow, set it in specific places where the bugs are. Leave it undisturbed. The bugs will move to the moisture in the potato and once they get in they can’t get out. Take the potato with the bugs inside it, throw it into a trash bag and dispose of it.
Getting rid of rolly pollies in and around your home
As mentioned earlier, if there are pill bugs in your garden, chances are very high that you will spot them in or around your home so it’s only common sense to also clear them out of your home as well.
Start by adjusting the gutters and downspouts to drain away from the foundation of your home and your garden. If there are any leaky faucets, repair them. The idea here is to keep the surfaces of your home as dry as possible including your patio, sidewalk, near the foundation, basement, and other crawl spaces.
Ensure there is sufficient ventilation in your basement to minimize humidity. Use sump pumps and dehumidifiers to keep the spaces dry.
Clear out debris, and remove woodpiles, stones, boards, and plastics laying on the ground. Underneath these items are breeding spaces for the pill bugs. For items that you cannot do away with, keep them off the ground. For instance, the woodpiles can be placed on top of a wooden frame.
Lastly, seal all cracks and openings that pill bugs can use to enter your home. Even though rollies pollies cannot stay in your house for more than a couple of days, its still important to keep them off.
The best way to get rid of rolly pollies in your garden is to prevent them from getting into your garden. It is easier to prevent than it is to get rid of it.
The most effective way to prevent them is by keeping your garden clean, free from any debris, and with as little moisture as possible. Using black plastic mulch is another great way of keeping them off your garden.
They cannot survive with the heat underneath the mulch. Another trick is to water your plants very early in the day so that the soil dries up before nightfall when the pill bugs come out.
Sometimes, even after all these preventive measures, rolly pollies can still find a way into your garden. But now know how to completely get rid of them.