Pill Bug Destruction

bfreeman_sunset20(Ca 9b vta co)March 29, 2006

I have a problem with pill bugs in many of the school gardens I work with(one of my jobs). They are all wooden raised beds. The earwigs are worst then I have seen anywhere else as well. The rollypollys make it impossible to grow strawberries without being consumed. I have never heard of such destructive sow bugs! We cant use most conventional controls in schools. I can possibly get away with oil and soap sprays. Is it the raised beds? I dont use these at home.

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I have READ, and I can't verify this, that supposedly, other buggies, like slugs are supposed to eat the strawberries and the sow bugs, which like decomposing plant matter, just lie in the hole because it is wet. I don't know, I just find them in the holes. But I have an enormous slug problem... ???
I have tried many things for earwigs (hate them!) and nothing works... I have learned to just live with them... I don't like pesticides, so I am stuck. I am sorry I have no solution, but I am so THERE with you! :o)

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 6:28PM
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Dick_Sonia(Sunset 17)

IMO, yes: raised beds and containers are particularly subject to pill bug attacks because they provide places of refuge for the buggers to breed. It is easy to underestimate the amount of danger pill bugs can cause. A few of them are no big deal, but healthy populations will decimate plants. Often times, when a plant never seems to grow or never comes out of dormancy, these guys are the problem. Humus brings them in. It's one of the problems with using compost.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 11:36PM
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bejay9_10(zone 9/10)

One method that seems to be working - at least partially - is to sift the compost before using in the raised beds. I then allow the sifted material to "rest" in the wheelbarrow for a day or 2, to allow the mocking birds to sift out the pill bugs.

The grubs in the compost are fed to my chickens - who really thank me for them - usually an egg a day, and the earwigs can be kept down by using rolled up newspaper around inside the raised beds. Each A.M. unroll the paper and dispose of the earwigs.

A cardboard box (computer cartons, etc.) folded up near the strawberry beds can invite near-by slugs/snails/what have yous - and unfolded from time to time to dispatch any visiting pests hiding inside.

These little measures seem to help quite a lot, without resorting to chemicals.

Stay vigilant.


    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 11:05AM
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bfreeman_sunset20(Ca 9b vta co)

Thank you for the replies, Bejay those are good ideas. I have actually heard those techniques before, but forgot. We will give it a shot!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 12:10PM
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napapen(ca 15)

You probably have alot of compost in your beds and pill/sow bugs eat decaying material just like red wigglers. In fact I had them take over a worm bed once. Their manure is just as good as worm compost.


    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 1:07PM
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I tried the rolled up newspaper... Maybe the earwigs are smarter than me. :o)

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 8:54PM
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wanda(Z9 CA)

I had problems with pill bugs eating my strawberries in a wooden 1/2 barrel. I put some weedcloth over the soil and cut holes for the plants. It curtailed a lot of the ruined berries. I got the idea from seeing the fields of strawberries growing on mounds. It seems that if the berries don't touch the soil, they are less likely to be attacked.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 11:41PM
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oh...that's a good idea! Thanks! I had given up....

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 11:25AM
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I also have earwigs, snails & large pill bug populations feeding on my strawberries. I also took a cue from seeing the strawberry farmland with it's rows of raised mounds covered in black plastic, so when I planted my berries I did mound them up, but forewent the black plastic(toxic). My berries are planted in a front yard bed which has wood chip mulch. I believe this may contribute somewhat to creating a hospitable habitat for the bugs, but it also keeps the surface dry(mostly) while helping the soil underneath retain moisture, fostering beneficial microorganisms which contribute exponentially to the fertility of the soil & plants, and subsequently requiring less watering. I find that I can minimize my losses of berries considerably by 1) only watering in morning to mid-day to avoid moisture at night which is when they feed. Watering at night seems to make them come out & eat everything. Also, don't water from above getting the plants themselves wet as this again encourages bugs to come up on them & feed. Instead opt to do a good soak once or twice a week. Drip lines are great, but I just put the hose on a trickle & leave lying on the ground for a while. 2) walking through the plants every day or so and flipping ripening berries up over the top of the plant so they are as far from the ground as possible. I find if they are not wet AND not touching the ground they will not get "munched". Also there is a natural predator of pill bugs, a spider about one-half inch long with a brown rear body and a reddish front body. It has prominent fangs, long front legs, and is timid as it usually runs for cover when disturbed or seen. Its common name is Woodlouse spider. They are everywhere and harmless to people. The scientific name is Dysdera Crocata and it feeds almost exclusively on pill bugs(aka woodlouse). They live under objects on the ground like stones etc. where pill bugs live. The long "fangs" are used for feeding on the pill bugs not you! If you can find one or order them from somewhere put it in your strawberry bed and I guarantee you both will be very happy :-) Utilizing these methods in concert I have been able to harvest more strawberries daily than this house of 5 can possibly eat without using a single chemical, so I don't worry too much when I do loose a few to the bugs.
Good luck :-)

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 8:32PM
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