Woodlice are known by different names in different parts of the world. Armadillo bugs, slaters, wood bugs, and potato bugs are just a few of these names. And because they can easily roll into a ball, they are sometimes referred to as pill bugs, roll up bugs, or roly-poly.
Their natural environment is a cool, damp, dark place making garden leaves and litter perfect places for them to hide. They are mostly nocturnal making it difficult to spot them unless one is actively looking. This also makes places like under mulch, rotting timber, and compost their favorite haunts too.
Generally, they don’t cause extensive damage to garden vegetables. As a matter of fact, they are generally considered beneficial due to the role they play in controlling some garden pests. They are also adept at breaking organic matter and dead vegetation as well as having a hand in overturning the soil and decomposition of compost.
So why is it necessary to know how to get rid of woodlice in garden since they are more beneficial than harmful to the ecosystem? The reason is simple: when there are too many, they become pests very quickly feeding on tender seedlings and other plants. They can also invade the house from the garden in very cold weather; though not harmful to humans, they are an irritating sight indoors.
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How To Get Rid Of Woodlice In Garden
As in most garden pests, effective strategies for getting rid of woodlice are tied to understanding their behavior. With that knowledge, it would be easy to appreciate why certain measures are employed. At the same time, improvising how to eliminate them to suit unique circumstances won’t be a problem.
Understanding Woodlice Behavior
Woodlice may look like insects (as a matter of fact, some folks call them insects), but belong to the lobster family with fourteen legs. The main differences between lobsters being the smaller size and adaptation to living on land.
There are dozens of woodlice families comprising thousands of sub-species around the world. Breeding takes place all year long, especially in greenhouse gardens. Outdoors though, breeding only takes place during the warmer summer months.
Each adult lays about 200 eggs accompanied by a 3-weeks incubation period that takes place inside a pouch under the body of the mother. Most of the eggs don’t make it to maturity; the fortunate hatchlings can survive up to 3 or more years into adulthood.
Some other interesting facts about woodlice include:
- They are mostly active at night
- The females are capable of breeding asexually
- Spiders, centipedes, frogs, shrews, and wasps are their natural predators
- The quickest places to find them in your garden are compost heap, rotting timber, under rocks, weeds, and under mulch. Anyplace that is dank, dark, and moist is their natural habitat.
- Their presence inside the house is usually a pointer to a dampness problem.
- Woodlice are capable of producing chemicals via a pair of tubes on their bodies to discourage predators from coming near them.
Plants and vegetables woodlice prefer
As stated earlier, the problems caused by woodlice, if any, are small compared to other garden pests. They only become an issue when the population is out of control and competition for food becomes intense. Then garden crops become at risk.
One way to know you have a woodlice problem is the tiny nibbles on stems, aerials roots, ripe strawberries, fallen fruits, and growing plants. But that conclusion can only be reached if you have already controlled other pests such as wireworms and snails.
Other garden plants susceptible to woodlice include:
However, because their mouthparts are not strong, they’ll rather wait for other garden pests to expose the soft inner tissues of plants before feasting on the crops. This makes it unlikely that damage to crops such as bulbs and tubers can be solely pinned on them.
Now you know how they behave and the sort of damage they are capable of, how can you get rid of them?
Methods of getting rid of woodlice in garden
Attract natural woodlice predators
In a perfect garden, there is a natural evening out between predator and prey populations. Gardens should naturally have both. A proliferation of woodlice implies something had distorted that balance; so you could restore it by adding more natural predators.
At the same time, adding or attracting more predators to the garden can serve to eliminate the woodlice. The candidates for this job include toads/frogs, lizards, some spider species such as the dystera crocata, beetles, wasps, birds, shrews, and centipedes.
And how do you attract these predators? A small pond in the garden is a good breeding place for toads while you could use bird feeds to attract birds.
Look to your compost heap
Compost, with its warmth and humid nature, are perfect woodlice habitats. You could make yours inhospitable to the bugs by exposing the heap to more heat. This would reduce the moisture level making it unsuitable for woodlice to thrive there.
And before using the compact in your garden, allow it to decompose completely. You don’t want to transfer the woodlice to your garden.
Popular traps for trading woodlice are so simple and uncomplicated that they can be made at home. The traps are all about baiting them to move from their hiding spots to where the trap is.
You can make one using damp newspaper and the bits of food woodlice love eating. The food scraps can include orange shells, tiny pieces of potato, grated cheese, and strawberries. Sandwich all these between two damp newspapers and place it in an area of the garden you suspect them to be.
Leave the improvised trap there till early the next morning. The woodlice would have invested the trap in numbers by then. Simply collect the now infested trap and dispose of it. Disposal could take the form of feeding them to your chickens as breakfast if you have some around.
Controlling garden woodlice using pesticides
Woodlice causing severe vegetable garden damage can be controlled by using dry chemical baits. These baits, in the form of pellets or flakes, should be spread near and around the plants being devoted by the bugs.
Studies recommend that using pesticides containing carbaryl, iron phosphate, spinosad or metaldehyde are very effective.
On the other hand, seeds treated with pest insecticides are not considered effective because a significant amount of the resulting seedlings might be damaged before the chemicals start taking effect on the woodlice. Other studies also indicate that insecticides applied directly on plant foliage have little effect because plant debris covering woodlice offers some form of protection to them.
Using chemicals should be the last resort if other methods fail to rid your garden of woodlice. Should this become your best option, it is advisable to check the yellow pages for professional pest controllers in the locality to help you get a handle on the problem without damaging your crops. A simple online search should get you a name and contact details.
Garden woodlice prevention tips
While knowing how to how to get rid of woodlice in the garden is great, preventive strategies shouldn’t be far from any gardener’s to-do list. Prevention means you don’t have to go through all the trouble of ridding the garden of woodlice after the damage has already occurred.
Some of the preventive methods are so simple you might have inadvertently implemented them as part of your gardening routine.
- Plant your crops on raised beds to make it difficult for the bugs to gain access to the young plants.
- Avoid all settings or situations that might create a humid setting in the garden. For instance, don’t over-water the plants or leave other water sources lying around.
- Because woodlice love moist and humid conditions, always water the garden early in the day. By nightfall, the soil should be dry.
- Take advantage of the fact that woodlice are bad travelers. They won’t migrate far from an established breeding site. Remove all materials they might use as habitat and store them far away from the garden.
- Another good strategy is to simply keep the garden and areas around it clean. Removing or cleaning the garden of stuff like rotting wood, rocks, weeds, rocks, leaves mulch, fallen fruits, etc, makes the garden very undesirable as a woodlice habitat.
- If you are using plastic mulch over your garden, experts recommend black plastic instead of clear or white plastic. Black plastic tends to be far hotter making the ground inhospitable to woodlice.
In the vegetable garden ecosystem, woodlice are some of the least harmful pests. They are better known for being beneficial to the garden by their activities. They help the decomposition of organic matter and increase soup fertility. But, there are instances when their activities, especially to young seedlings, can be inimical to a blooming garden. This makes knowledge of some woodlice control measures an imperative.
Fortunately, getting rid of woodlice in the garden doesn’t require elaborate measures. Simply cleaning the garden and removing all organic debris, unwanted mulch, rotting wood, bricks, etc, would do the trick. The use of homemade woodlice traps, introducing their natural predators into the garden, and optimizing compost heaps by raising the temperature and moving them far from the plant could be employed to control them too.
Some pesticides can also help eliminate them without hurting the vegetables if applied properly. With this method, it is best to seek the services of garden pest control experts.