pill bugs are eating away all my bulbs,my iris and chrysanthemum plants.can somebody tell me how to get rid of them??
Usually the diet of pill bugs, sow bugs, wood lice, potato bugs, and the numerous other names these crustaceans go by is decaying vegetative waste not live plant tissue. They will, however, eat live plant tissue if there is not enough other food available, so rather than kill these normally beneficial crustaceans put down the proper food source for them and they will help improve your soil instead of destroying your garden.
Feeding the pillbugs?
Please know that moist, organic-y soils will contain some of these isopods. They are an important part of the ecosystem. However, an overpopulation can and will lead to the damage of our plants. Make sure, first of all, that it is the sowbugs doing the damage and not something else.
These critters require very moist conditions in which to thrive, so let's see what you can do to alter their environment, first. Is your mulch layer too heavy? Are you watering or irrigating too frequently? Has it been raining like crazy in your location?
It's one of those situations when you can make some slight physical adjustments to the site, and these little guys might go elsewhere.
I have raised beds with rich mulch. I am completely overwhelmed with pill bugs. My biggest FRUSTRATION right now is that I can't start any bean plants, b/c by the time the seedling comes up, it has been stripped of its two starting leaves, often leaving only a stem. I can see the pill bugs in the morning absolutely covering the rising seedling. by the time it breaks the surface very little or nothing remains. We are not talking about a few pill bugs that can be handpicked. I have actually covered this area with diatomaceous earth and I watch the pill bugs walk right over it.
As for the questions of moisture and conditions, it is a very rich mulch in a raised bed, and I am in so. cal. so we are by no means overly moist.
Diatomaceous earth is not a repellant and you want the insects (or crustaceans in this case) to walk over it. If they pick up enough of the dust, it will wear away their cuticle and they dehydrate and die. If you use this product the results will be seen several days later.
Let me add this: make sure that you are using the correct grade of DE. It should be food or horticultural grade, never the DE that is used in pool filters. It won't work and it's FAR more hazardous to your health.
Use the DE generously, even mixing it into the soil. DE does not dissolve in water.
A mulch of sand is very disagreeable to pill bugs. They don't like sand because they can dry out and die in it. Sand is also disagreeable to slugs and snails.
thanks. I am using DE that I got from a garden supply house. part of the problem is that they are getting the seedlings just before they emerge from the surface as well. I will just keep planting seeds and adding DE.
I used slug bait on all my gardens and I think they had a big impact on the pillbugs. I was also nearly overcome with them but since putting down a heavy layer of Sluggo, they are gone and I find dead ones here and there. It had to be them eating the Sluggo too because I was putting down little mini-walls of the pellets for awhile and by morning they'd be gone.
lately i find a lot of pill bugs under rocks, in my basement, and also i was planting tomato's and before they were in a pot and when i looked there was so many of them. After reading all the facts and hints, it looks like they are actually good for the soil. But everyday i find those pill bugs, Lately it was raining a lot where i live (North-NJ), so what steps should i take to protect my plants from pill bugs? I read from the 1st response to put down some food for them, but what kind of food, like rotten, old food?
Feeding them would have to be the most ignorant thing I've ever heard. That would bring in more and breed more so unless you intend on feeding them forever...well that's just stupid! As if gardening isn't tough enough some idiot wants to make it tougher. Kill them all before they eat your plants. There's plenty of decaying material in my garden and they prefer my plants. Diatomaceous earth will do the trick but takes a little time. Good luck!
If sand killed pill bugs I would not have any since my soil is sand, but it does not and I do, lots. The pill bugs, sow bugs, wood lice, do not do any harm to my plants since they live on decaying organic matter, not living plants, although it would be nice if they would eat some of the "weeds" on occassion.
A well mulched garden is the perfect breeding ground for these crustaceans, cool, moist, with ample amounts of food available. If you see pill bugs, sow bugs, wood lice, eating away on living plants it is because they are cleaning up after something else that damaged those plants.
I'd say this looks a little suspicious to me
That was one of my best celocia. They'll have to climb higher for the giant reds.
I recently tried Sluggo Plus and it seems to have drastically reduced my pill bug population. Actually, I tried to find a pill bug the other day to show my father and I couldn't even locate one. Given the massive amount of pill bugs I had before using Sluggo Plus, I was completely amazed.
deadheader thanks for the heads up. It's obvious to me that they will eat healthy plants even when there is plenty of decaying matter around. The pillbug pictured above is at least 6" above the ground where there is plenty of rich soil that contains lots of decaying matter.
kimmsr which is it sand or rich soil that your plants are in?
Caution advised regarding Sluggo Plus. One of the active ingredients is Spinosad and per wiki is dangerous to honeybees.
"However, it is highly toxic to bees (honey bee LC50 = 11.5 ppm) and is highly toxic to oysters and other marine mollusks. Applications to areas where bees are actively foraging should be avoided." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinosad
That photo is a fake, isn't it? I have never seen a pillbug climb a plant in my life! They don't even like the sun! They hide under rocks and under wet leaves.
If you really do have a pillbug problem (honestly, if you do I assume they are some invasive Asian pillbug, since this is NOT the behavior of a normal one), I'd start a small compost pile, collect the Rolly-Pollys and put them in it.
That photo is a fake, isn't it? I have never seen a pillbug climb a plant in my life!
Why would you think the photo is fake? I took it in my flower garden where pillbugs were eating my plants. I was surprised to see it that high too. Save the photo and blow it up if you think it's fake.
They don't even like the sun! They hide under rocks and under wet leaves.
Why did I see hundreds of them on top of the soil then?
I suspect they sleep and mate under cover!
I remedied the problem by letting the soil dry out some.
Right now I have hundreds of pill bugs in my flower beds and garden. They are not decaying and I have plenty of property with grazing aplenty for the dreaded pillbugs. When I get up before the sun is high and there is still shade the pillbugs are on top of the soil. Later in the day they are around the base of my plants eating away to their hearts content. I have had two years of really bad infestation for whatever reason but the bugs "do" eat your plants and veggies! I have yet to find a non-harmful way to get rid of these pests and their damage is worse than the good they do. I want the little buggers gone.
Try food grade diatomaceous earth. You can get it at Lowes in the insecticide area.
Here's an idea that works.
Here is a link that might be useful: Pillbug Control
These bugs are climbing my tomatoe plants to get into the ones that are just starting to ripen. I have been waiting for my first on to turn red, it has been a nice pink. finally turned and when I picked it there was a hole in it, when I looked there was a pill bug in there. I heard tuna cans with beer or just water in the planted even with the ground will capture and kill them. Going to give it a try.
The link below might be of some interest to those that want to know about these Isopods, good information not myths. For those that wish to eliminate pill bugs from the garden simply remove anything that can create a cool, moist environment for them to live and grow in.
Here is a link that might be useful: Pill Bugs
I can tell everyone on here that the pill bugs I have prefer live plants to decaying matter. They have destroyed our Strawberry patch if the slugs were not bad enough the pill bugs are worse. They have now moved on to our tomatoes, they don't touch the plant its self just the fruit. How do you safely get rid of them in a vegatable garden?
To the person who says rolly pollies dont climb plants,,, HAHAHAHAHAHA!! They are in my garden by the thousands, killing seedlings, and full grown plants! The pic is of a large pumpkin plant. I could not figure out what was wrong with my fully grown, and flowering potato plants until I removed the mulch,, hundreds of pillbugs in my potato beds chewing on the stems below the mulch, slowly killing the plants. They will burrow into the ground around a small stem and eat until the seedling falls over, they will crawl all over a plant eating leaves and stems, I have heard they will also eat the roots. To the naysayers who ignorantly say pillbugs eat only dead material,,, get outta bed before noon and check your garden!
Spinosad aka Sluggo-Plus! Pill bugs and sowbugs WILL eat and actually ENJOY eating live plant "matter" aka, plants with exception of basil. Can online order it from HDepot around here: 5 lbs. will take care of 5000 sq. feet. Of course it must be reapplied but, just to be clear, as if these photos aren't clear enough, they'll destroy a garden, esp. if we mulch. I really like to mulch. If Sluggo-Plus ever fails me, am going to the Sevin: those things took down 2 zuke and a squash plant one afternoon and night last summer, were headed for more when they . . . perished.
Ashcards, what's that metal thing? Looks like they've got a perfect home in there, safe from predators.
Hi Annie, welcome to Gardenweb!
I don't find these critters to be abundant enough to be a problem. Yes, they like to live in leaf litter and mulch, but they must be pretty tasty to birds and anoles which would and apparently do eat them.
Applying any kind of chemicals can create even more of an imbalance in your garden if the chemicals are also harmful to benefical predators, which they usually are. Rushing to chemicals every time a pest is sited eliminates the food source that may have attracted whatever would like to eat it. Having a little patience about that the first few years of starting a garden can pay off heavily in the future, when enough beneficials have been established to thwart infestations of pests.
If we're talking about a scale as small as 3 plants, picking the pill bugs off (or whatever pest is big enough to do so,) and throwing them into the lawn for the birds should help keep their numbers down until birds or other predators realize that food source is there. They could also be smushed, or cut in half with scissors to just kill them.
If one's going to apply stuff like that to food, that eliminates the benefit of growing it at home. I'd prefer to eat food that hasn't had any of that stuff on/near it, but if I do, I'd prefer to just buy it at the store. Any chemicals would have been applied by pros at the correct time in the recommended amounts, costs about the same, so much less effort. I see no reason to duplicate corporate type agriculture in my own yard.
While I agree that rushing to chemical controls is never a good idea, I can say from experience that pill bugs and sow bugs can be incredibly destructive. One thing that seems to be helping me is moving away from mulching. I've been a devout garden mulcher for a decade (primarily chopped oak leaves), and, as a consequence, I've been providing prime year-round habitat for pill bugs, sows bugs, slugs, and earwigs in particular. I still have to resort to Sluggo Plus on occasion, but, so far at least, forgoing the mulch does seem to be helping.
I have had a pillbug infestation in my raised beds since year 2 of building them (that means last year and this year I've had problem pillbugs). I must confess because of my frustration with them I'm a bit tired of reading that they don't eat healthy plants. I am another one who knows for a fact they do. Maybe it's only when you have an infestation that there is a problem and those who think they eat only decayed or unhealthy plants have never experienced an infestation.
I also live in Socal and I am inland in Temecula.
I have never resorted to chemicals in my organic garden and even the pillbug won't drive me to it.
I have done 4 things to solve my problem and I highly recommend 3 of them. The first I thank Laura from the Temecula Valley Garden Club for. For plants like peas and beans where you are only planting a few of them, once you plant the seed directly, protect it by placing about a 3" to 4" tall tube cut from a plastic bottle around the seed. I don't know why this works like a charm--you would think the little buggers would just attack the plant easily from underneath, but they don't. I only push the tube in far enough so it won't get blown over by the wind--maybe 1/2 inch at most. You can even use a cardboard toilet paper tube if you want. Those get soggy but they work.
For plants like radishes or beets, or anything that you plant more of and closer together, this isn't so practical. So before you are ready to plant, prepare the bed using the beer trick. Pillbugs just love beer! (I thank my husband who said, "Let's try it!"--I hadn't seen it recommended anywhere at the time). You can use an empty can but I bought small tuna-can sized glass storage containers at the dollar store since they are more attractive and I can re-use them forever.
Bury them up to the top in your empty bed, one per square foot, and fill them with beer. make sure you push the soil up next to the rim all around so the little crusty critters can get access. You will collect dozens of pillbugs in each container effortlessly and feel confident about planting your seeds or tender seedlings.
Pillbugs don't seem to travel very far from their home spot which is why the beer needs to be placed right where you're going to plant. If you wait til you plant and put the beer in the square foot beside where the plants are, it won't work. That's why I do it before I plant. Buy the cheapest beer you can find and you don't have to fill the containers. I've even captured the critters in containers where the beer had already evaporated (they can't climb the container side once they're in). They just love the smell. Just refill the containers each time you empty them and you will capture dozens more per container if you are battling an infestation like I am.
Third, I always make sure to dry out the sections of bed after I have harvested my plants. They need water to survive. Thanks to this forum for that trick.
Fourth, I have a pillbug-designated eviction spoon I keep handy to pick up any that I see crawling around while I'm gardening. I thank my own desperation to save my plants for that. I used to throw them in the beer but now I crush the ones I catch because I feel better about making their death quick and painless. I can't help it about the ones that find the beer on their own or die of dehydration. After all, I am growing the produce for us, not them.
This fourth method was my main method of control last spring before I learned of the other methods, but it literally took HOURS of my time each morning for many days in a row because I had SO MANY pillbugs to destroy. It was awful!
Also, if you see a medium-sized spider with a white abdomen and red front section (I don't know spider physiology), count your blessings. I read that they eat pillbugs. I have seen 2 of them.
My gardens are completely enclosed with a wood and hardware cloth construction because of all the wildlife on our property, so the birds can't feast on our pillbugs. Do lizards eat them?
One more thing. I have to tell the non-believer pillbug advocates that once I have my pillbug population under control, I have healthy, producing plants. No other predators are getting them. Pillbugs adore my radishes, CORN (they absolutely love), beets, LETTUCE, spinach, snap peas, BEANS and TURNIPS in particular. In the fall I never even got to see the first sign of even ONE lettuce or turnip seedling. They were DONE before I reached the garden. They're a little slower with the radishes. They eat them for a longer period of growing time.
I wish I didn't have to destroy them. I like them and would love it if they would just stick to cleaning up the soil and composting for me! But they are hungry and they love my good, healthy food! They can't even wait until there is more and enough for both of us!
Im new to gardening and had a lot of trouble with these pill bugs. I found like a million of those annoying little pests in my garden bed. Thanks, to the tips and advice I have read, I have found that the beer method works!!! I tried looking up videos YouTube, no luck sooooo I'm going to make a video on how to kill pill bugs naturally using the beer method, and hopefully help others:)!!!!
Hi CoSho, welcome to Gardenweb! Bless you for wanting to help. Good luck!
I wonder if it is different species of pillbug, sowbug, woodlice that eat living things and that may explain our difference of experience. I have experience with pillbugs eating plants and roots. At first I thought it was snails. I live in the woods and we see snails and shells all the time. But there were no snail trails in the garden. Then I remembered seeing lots of pillbugs and the year my flower baskets 15 feet off the ground were completely killed. When I gave up and turned them out on the compost heap the baskets had been half full, no lie, of pillbugs. I am assuming I brought them from the nursery in the soil the plants were growing in. I didn't even try to battle those. I had lost.
To get rid of my current bunch I first put wood ashes around my pansies that were disappearing--I thought someone was stealing them--gone overnight. Then I saw some with holes so started on the prowl. My pansies have quit disappearing and seem to be holding their own in the chewing division but I found many pillbugs in one spot of soil from the nursery where they are congregated all day. I put wood ash on half of that and they left that alone too. Now I am trying tobacco tea as a systemic pest deterrent. They tell me you have to replace the ash after a rain. I think it will be easier to water once in a while with tobacco tea if it works. You can see in the picture they are not on the large brown tobacco leaf and this is day two of tobacco tea. There were many more, enough to cover the ground in that spot in previous days. My whole garden is rife with the isopods and I have no way to get rid of them because of the woods on all sides. I will just have to protect the garden and also look for plants that they avoid. I bought impatiens today because the snails don't eat those I am told. So far I have not found a list of pillbug safe plants because so many of you think they don't eat living things. Thanks to all who post here. It is a great wealth of information.
An addendum to my above comment: I am in Ohio.
One thing I did not discuss above is that diatomaceous earth will kill all the earthworms as well as other soft bodied "good" soil constituents. We have to be very careful in our choice of pest controls, and that brings me to a correction of my own comment:
The tobacco tea may not be the best thing for vegetable gardens since the intention is that the plants will take up the tobacco with the water. But wood ash used to be the source of potash that is in fertilizer. Use with caution, but I don't think a little bit spread around plants to keep the isopods from walking there will be harmful. Explanation from Oregon Extension: "If used judiciously, wood ash can be used to repel insects, slugs and snails, because it draws water from invertebrates' bodies. Sprinkle ash around the base of your plants to discourage surface feeding pests. But once ash gets wet, it loses its deterring properties. Continual use of ash in this way may increase the soil pH too much, or accumulate high salt levels harmful to plants."--
Hopefully the isopods will move on before harm comes to the soil. Maybe in years there are not infestations we can let the soil rest or even improve it organically.
The tobacco tea has eliminated the large size bugs from that patch of ground in the photo. There are now numerous small bugs and they have moved over to another spot of nursery soil where there was a plant. At night they are everywhere, including eating the last lonely stems of my beautiful lupine plant. I can only imagine what is going on underground. The wood ash works, but only until it gets damp--for instance from the dew every night. That is not a viable alternative. I will keep applying the tobacco tea to see if the smaller bugs succumb. Could they be a different species? Scientists? Anyone? Thanks for all the info. I will keep working on this problem.
This post was edited by trailguide15 on Tue, May 21, 13 at 9:08
So much good info here. I am at my wits end with the pill bugs. I've lost two BIG beautiful hostas, numerous marigolds, bleeding hearts, just to name a few plants that these little crusty bugs have eaten. I don't mind sharing but entire plants? Gone too far! Question: Is Qualisorb Diatomaceous Earth Oil Absorbent (used for car oil spills) the same as the Diatomaceous Earth sold in garden centres? I saw the product at a car place and it is so much cheaper than buying a fancy brand made specific for insects. Any thoughts?
This post was edited by LavaLady on Sat, May 25, 13 at 18:39
LavaLady, I think the two might be different sizes, with the garden DE ground finer. Online there is talk about food grade DE that would include the garden DE since it is put on food. Before you use that you might want to try the tobacco tea. I am having good results with that on my flowers, but it is difficult to know what beneficial critters I am exterminating or running off with that as well.
Here is a link to an ad for a book about DE. The ad has quite a lot of information, so check this out and maybe you can get the book at the library.
@ Trailguide15...Thanks a bunch for all your help. I'll have to check out that Tobacco tea. I do like my worms so I hope it won't harm them.
FYI: based on further research the Diatomaceous Earth (DE) used for cleaning up oil spills is NOT effective for use as a pesticide. Two reasons, although one is enough:
Reason#1: the DE used in oil spills is heat treated which makes it calcinated and therefore ineffective in killing soil-born pests. Calcinated is also not good for you to breathe or have around pets, wildlife and people (i.e., not to be used in gardens). Although Qualisorb says their product is non-toxic, their MSDS says it all.
Reason #2: The particles are too large to be effective. Particles on average should be 12 microns or less.
This all means I must buy the brand name stuff, which is very costly, but I do love my plants.
Many thanks to TRAILGUIDE15 for sending me on the right track.
Apparently there is gross misunderstanding here about Pill Bugs, Sow Bugs, Potato Bugs, Wood Lice, or what ever term is used to identify these crustacians. They primarily live on decaying vegetative waste but may also eat living plant material. However, the majority of the time when these wee buggers are blamed for something they are really innocent and something else caused the actual problem.
Perhaps this linked bit from the University of Kentucky entomologists can help.
Here is a link that might be useful: About Pill Bugs
The tobacco tea seems to be working. My suggestion is to only use it sparingly, not every time you water and then only on the affected plant, not the entire garden. I say go slow with plant choices, only one or a few of each to see if they are attractants or not. Then choose your plants accordingly and you will be able to give up the tobacco tea use and have not eradicated the beneficial organisms along with those you don't want, from the entire garden.
Actually a healthy garden has some of both because what we consider non-beneficial to our garden plants have a usefulness that perhaps we just don't see. Like transformation of detritus to humus and good soil. A healthy balance is what we are looking for and perhaps too many of one plant, a mono-culture, is inviting infestation trouble.
I am going out on a limb and buying another lupine plant and then checking it often, around the clock to see if I can tell what exactly ate all the leaves. It was something small, not a deer. It went over the course of several days from the edges in. Look for future pictures.
I put out the impatiens and so far so good. I did douse them with the tobacco tea while still in the flat the day I brought them home, but that was the last time. I will wait for signs of loss before using the tea again.
The six petunia plants I got at the same time as the impatiens were also doused with the tea, but the first night, still in the flat almost every piece of every bloom disappeared. I do suspect a slug of eating the blossoms leaving the base of the flower still in the sepals which is what I found the next morning. I found a slug in the impatiens when I planted them, maybe the slug got lost--but no extensive damage to those plants. Since then the petunias have formed new blooms but I found snails on the plants today and the woodlice are visible in the daytime on top of the soil around their roots (this photo does not show the woodlice in the large numbers that are present). See photo.
One scenario that we haven't visited is that the potting medium has a component of dead plant material, not fully composted, that attracts the woodlice. I am hoping that is all they are eating and will gladly give blame where it is truly due..
This post was edited by trailguide15 on Sun, May 26, 13 at 10:28
@ kimmsr... your article says it all: pill/sow bugs eat young plants. Reading through the thread I see that people's young bean sprouts are being eaten. If you are aware of the size of a bean sprout then the usually minimal damage done by pill bugs is devastating on a sprout. I have seen with my eyes the damage that pill bugs can do. Once there's an infestation, they can strip a new plant down to nothing overnight. No they down eat mature or super high plants but in my garden they are definitely the culprits. I have never seen a slug trail, lady bug, aphid, grubs or any known pests in my garden soil, but I have way more than my fair share of pill bugs. My hostas were completely killed, because they ate away at the base of each new leaf, and when a new one came out, they went at it before it even had time to unfold. No leaf, no energy which meant this year, I had no Hostas in my side yard. I don't need any links to tell me about pill bugs. I have eyes and I've seen the damage they do. People on the forum have provided more than sufficient evidence that pill bugs damage fresh growth and make it impossible for some plants to even move beyond seedling stage. I've started my course of DE and I wish good luck to all the other gardeners who have provided insightful information on how to help control these crusty critters:)
Tobacco Tea, a means of getting the nicotene, has been on a list to be banned for quite a number of years. The synthetic nicotenoids have been found to be very bad for most of our beneficial insects and pollinators.
No one today should be using, or recommending for use, any nicotene sulfate products whether home made or not.
do you have any methods to keep pests from eating my plants that is not harmful to the beneficials ?
This post was edited by trailguide15 on Mon, May 27, 13 at 11:34
What to use depends on which pest you have, but most every poison that controls the insect pests will also kill any beneficials. The few very selective materials, biological controls, are not very effective once the target insect gets a few weeks old.
Your best defense from insect pests is strong and healthy plants growing in a good healthy soil and a diverse habitat that attracts a wide variety of predators of insects. I can recall that for many years we have been told to keep those "weeds" on ther matgins of our property cut down since they harbor insect pests and now we spending several million dollars to study if leaving those "weeds" (others call them wild flowers) is better because they can provide another source of food and shelter for the pollinators, as well as the beneficials and predators.
After several late evening inspections, here is what I found. This year I planted violas, lobelia, impatiens, bee balm/monarda, forget-me-nots/myosotis, lupine, Easter lily bulbs and daffodil bulbs. So far what has survived is lobelia, bee balm but with holes in foliage, forget-me-nots, lily and daffodil bulbs, impatiens.
This is my hypothesis: I think the flowers (I don't plant vegetables in this garden) that have not been eaten by the wood lice are not appetizing to the wood lice and other pests that are in my garden such as snails, slugs, some kind of grasshopper, or others. I think that all it takes is one good bite or at least several small ones and the plant sends out a signal that it is being attacked or is dying--look this up, science does not reject this hypothesis, and then the wood lice attack full force. I lost every bit of every viola, the lupine, and the petunias are finished soldiers, lying on the ground being eaten alive as it were. I noticed on the petunias after much chomping and they fell over that something had eaten the soft flesh completely around the major stem leaving only the few sort of woody strings in the center. This is not a casual picnic but all out siege. My plants were not seedlings of a stem and a few leaves, but nursery plants of somewhat substantial size with many leaves, blooms and buds on each plant, but the girdling or loss of all the leaves of the plant would not allow any size plant to live. The lupine and violas were eaten leaves and blooms first. I can't say what took the first bite, but very definitely the wood lice ate the injured bodies while they were still standing and still seemed viable if I could have stopped the wood lice.
I am going to buy one plant at a time of new species to test the waters and proceed accordingly.
Trail, yours really is a tale of woe! Have you added bagged peat to your ground? Does the ground ever dry out? Curious where in the country you are, if you don't mind saying. I see a lot of pill bugs around my yard, but with few exceptions they don't eat plants, and I've never seen them so thickly in the ground as your recent pic. Lettuce does come to mind. The tiny seedlings that sprouted in place from scattered seed were no match for these guys - either them or slugs, which I hardly ever see.
Are you sure there are no bunnies hopping through? Decapitation is their milieu! Squirrels are also suspect sometimes.
Have you considered putting a bird bath near the worst areas? This would attract more to your yard, hopefully sometimes with appetites! Every morning there are birds here in the yard, they forage among the leaves/mulch in the beds for bugs.
I'm wondering if your garden areas are relatively new, and a natural balance of things has just not had time to establish. I tried to skim back to re-familiarize myself, but didn't notice anything about that aspect of your gardens, if it's already been said.
I live in Ohio, in the woods. The garden is just a place outlined with stones from the edge of the woods. No improvements. It has been mulched a couple years but I am giving that up in favor of covering the ground with plants to crowd out the weeds. The garden is at the bottom of a hill in about an hour of sun per day, otherwise medium to deep shade. It is not always wet though. We have drought in summer more than not. Since we have to buy water there is no watering gardens then. So maybe this is a hopeless case. I would like to get just a little border of something perennial going and so far am aiming to the myosotis/forget-me-nots. They have not had one wood louse on them or near them so far. But they only bloom in spring and I wish for something blooming all growing season. This year will be impatiens but want to give up most annuals here because of watering issue. I planted some daffodil bulbs that were Easter plants in pots and the leaves died a natural death with one still living, so maybe that is an option also. As well with the Easter lilies--no signs of gnoshing there, knock on wood. I wanted iris, but the first post or so says no. Lilies of the valley, ostrich fern and Lady fern are uneaten as well, and they were rootstock, very tiny plants right now, but healthy. So little by little I am finding things that will work, that don't attract the hungry garden eaters. Am going to try heuchera/coral bells also and keep going to the nursery to see what they have blooming new all summer. One plant at a time. .
Forgot to say, we have porch cats, like barn cats, that keep the rodents and reptiles away from the house. The garden is close. No rabbits, no chipmunks, no mice, a dead vole now and then, no groundhogs, squirrels are smart and stay in trees, a few toads to eat the crickets, frogs that stay in the pond mostly, fox, and deer passing through infrequently. We have raccoons and oppossums that eat fallen birdseed and cat food when they can get it which is not often. I feed the birds all year and there is always water available for them. They don't eat woodlice, at least not from my garden. But my plants had holes in them when they didn't just disappear.
That sounds really frustrating! Also makes me wonder if at least sometimes in the past, when I've blamed bunnies, that could have been a wrong assumption. A wooded setting like that should be home to plenty of birds. Doesn't sound like a situation you've inadvertently created, so there's nothing I know for you to stop doing - or do more of - from what you've described. Can't think of any other advice at this point, sorry.
The spot you describe sounds perfect for woodland natives. The ones I remember so well from the southern part of the state, like Trillium, Polygonatum, Podophyllum, Mianthemum, Phylox divicarta, Columbine... for some reason my mind is stuck on spring, but that's when most of the deep shade natives bloom, AFAIK. Then there's those who's origins I don't know, like Polemonium, Pulmonaria, Bergenia, Hosta, Lamium, Veronica, Thalictrum, Brunnera, Heuchera, and whatever they're calling bleeding hearts now, no longer Dicentra I think.
I used to live in OH and had a lot of shade plants at my last place before moving to AL. LOV is a notorious (exotic) thug in the right conditions, and I think ostrich fern might be too. Adding more of these to a natural area might not be a great idea but can't argue that they are attractive-looking plants - especially if they're all that's left standing after these nosh-fests.
We are visiting OH in a couple weeks. My only regret about the trip is that it had to wait until school let out. I don't think we'll see any of the flowers I mentioned when we go hiking in Hocking Hills. All of my pics of them are from April(s) and May(s).
I'm curious about your moniker. Do you actually work as a trail guide?
I love the woodland wildflowers too and do plan on some of them although I am unsure how well they will do with my noon hour of sun and our summer droughts. Most of the ones I am familiar with live in the deep shade. I have been reading sort of biographies of the woods and some field guides by different authors to see what grows on the edge or in openings, knowing that I have the right soil and that those plants should thrive in my little space. When I can find them for sale as nursery cultivated I want to plant the species of the plant, not a hybrid.
Yes, I am a trailguide, naturalist for over 30 years off and on.
We also have another issue that is not pill bugs, someone planted a huge field of daylilies, the plain orange ones, as groundcover to stabilize a hill under our road. They are invading everywhere and don't bloom in the shade. I would rather have the native invasive fern, actually I am counting on that, it belongs in the woods at least. That location will never be able to get by on just spring wildflowers. I am also hoping that the fern will shade out the bush honeysuckle as we are able to cut it down. It is everywhere along the edge of our woods. I want to plant some other shrubs and small trees with natural bird food, deciduous holly, dogwood, a rhododendron, fragrant sumac etc. to have more diversity to look at as well as support the mixed woods biota. And I would like to be able to see into the woods and out to the river, not just a wall of green surrounding me and holding out the breezes.
I hope this explains my take on the wood lice issue. I am not looking to radically change the habitat, but only to enhance it a bit. They are welcome to stay if they eat only the tons of detritus available and not my bought with great price nursery plants.
This post was edited by trailguide15 on Thu, May 30, 13 at 12:20
Something was eating my zinnias. I had seen a few pillbugs on my zinnias previous years. However I wasn't sure if it was pillbugs or slugs killing my plants. I used the beer in the bowl method because I have used that method other years to get rid of slugs. To my surprise hundreds of pillbugs (and a few slugs) were in the bowl! So far the plants, even though severely maimed, are holding their own.
I think by now even the non-believers will believe that pill bugs eat plants. I've been gardening for many years, but this spring has been the worst for pill bugs eating plants they've never touched before. The zinnia seedlings I planted in my flower pots are thriving, but the ones I transferred to garden beds are being devoured by pill bugs, as are my cucumber starts. I have built fences to ward off groundhogs and I have netted areas to ward off birds, but these bugs have no restraints. Last year we had a drought, and I have welcomed the rain this year, but I've never seen such devastation. I will use the beer drowning method, starting tomorrow!
Yes, I've been converted to a believer by this discussion. And that the beer thing really does help, not for total elimination, but for reducing them to a "normal" amount. I don't blame folks with a heavy infestation for wanting to do something about it. Best of luck to everyone!
I wonder if some less expensive type of yeasty fermentation might also do the job. Even cheap beer isn't cheap.
Anyone can collect FREE yeast from the air. Mix equal amounts of flour and water in a non-metal bowl. Cover with a cheesecloth or tight weave net to keep out twigs, bugs etc. not plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Set the bowl outside in a shady place and wait for it to bubble. The bubbles are indication that you have caught the wild yeast. This mixture can be used to trap woodlice, although I haven't tried it, but if it is the yeast they are after there is no reason this should not work. It is also the starter for sour dough bread. Many recipes can be found on the web.
Well how helpful is that?! Great post. Hope some people try this and report on it here.
(I've always wished I was organized enough to "do" sourdough for bread. A shout-out to all of those who are - thanks! That's some goooood bread.)
I live in Colorado where it isn't very wet. The pillbugs have infested my raised garden beds and destroyed all my seedlings and also stripped off the outer ring at the base of even my tomato plants. There are so many at the base of each plant that the soil isn't even visible in some places!
I am trying something like sluggo which comes in a pellet form and so far the bugs are stuck all over the pellets. If it works I'll post name of the product.
I know I have been overwatering. Today I transplanted some tomatoes from pots to the ground. They all had pillbugs in the middle of the pots. I sprinkled them with diatamaceous earth (food grade)...in less than 5 minutes they all died. I think in the future when I do pots I will mix some DE into the soil when I start my seedlings. I've lost many seedlings because of them. All I am left with is a stem and a root.
If the Pill Bugs died within 5 minutes of applying DE there was something else in that DE because DE does not wotk that way or that quickly.
There is a great deal of misinformation here about the Pill Bugs, Sow Bugs, Wood Lice, Potato Bugs, or what ever else you may know these land dweilling relatives of crabs and lobsters by. The link below will provide good information about them, for any one interested in learning.
Since these wee buggers, like many other insects, need a cool, moist environment to live, breed, and exist eliminating those types of environments on your garden can reduce the populations. That means no decorative stones, pavers, mulches, or even a good healthy soil.
Here is a link that might be useful: About Isopods
kimmsr I think I over did the DE with them.The DE I got is food grade. But then I sprinkled about a 1/4 cup into the soil. Who knows what killed them then.Thanks for the link.
I just threw into the compost 6 full grown bok Choi because it was riddled with holes from the pill bugs, they were eating them even as I was pulling them up. Too many to squash so used the flame thrower ( propane torch) then rake the surface and repeat.
Raised bed is peat, manure, vermiculite and compost so it's an invitation to lunch, added to very dense planting thar keeps the soil moist.
I use oil dry (the one labelled diomataceas earth) from the auto store to raise seedlings and after planting use the DE around young plants. So it's either go and get a new bag or sacrifice a bottle of beer ... mmm beer,,!!
All of this rain... these things are suddenly a problem here, haven't been before. Too many for the birds to eat, temporarily I hope. There sure are tons of birds picking through the beds constantly.
Mmmm, Begonia cuttings! I can see 4 pill bugs.
..."and I wonder, still I wonder, who'll stop the rain?"
well, if they prefer dead stuff ... it appears they're not above killing it before they harvest - I planted a handful of hot pepper plants on June 1 (I know too late but they were a gift so... better than throwing them in the compost). The month of June we got 10+ inches of rain (Brooklyn, NY) our avg rainfall is about 1.5 inches/June, TOO MUCH WATER. I went out for a look both day and nite and could not see the seedlings but for the covering of pill bugs - completely inundated. A grey mass of mobile yuck - my garden is (mostly) organic so what to do? Also, I am poor, so home remedies are best for me. Go to a deli and get 10-20 books of cheap matches - pull off the covers and toss - fan the matches and soak in pitcher/watering can of warm water, pour on soil around plants - the hot peppers love the sulphur - the pill bugs, not so much, it doesn't kill the bugs they just don't fancy it. Now someone tell me a good household remedy for flea beetles in my strawberries??? AND does ANYONE KNOW why so many plants, peppers, tomatoes, squash, leaves turn yellow and fall off - 2-3 days to strip a plant??? will upload photos soon.
Well, I made it through the entire post. I'm a believer.
I've seen pillbugs eat some of my plants but not others. I wasn't cautious about this viewing. What I can say is: It's my fault.
I started gardening by first building a compost. I worked it, wet it, let it get hot and composted away. It was there the first infestation began. Makes sense according to the information. The fact that we were under a drought certainly didn't help matters.
Now, they are everywhere... everywhere in such abundance!
Well, I'll be doing the beer. I might as well buy a case of beer to stock. It will be a long time until the numbers dwindle.
I've seen their predators as mentioned above and that's a good sign but the isopods outnumber them way too much.
You see, I have a bird problem. A lack of birds is the problem.
And that's because OF ALL THE STRAY CATS. It is legal in Oklahoma to kill feral cats for this reason.
Please have your cats spayed and neutered if you haven't already AND KEEP THEM INDOORS. If you cannot afford adequate entertainment for them in your home then don't have them. Don't have pets at the expense of the rest of the natural wildlife and the rest of your entire neighborhood.
THE BIRDS DESERVE TO LIVE, TOO.
When someone says the preferred food of the Pill Bugs, Sow Bugs, Potato Bugs, Wood Lice, or what ever other name is used for these Isopods is decaying organic matter that does not mean they will never, ever eat living plants.
If someone does not take the time to learn about these wee critters and understand the environment they need to live they will have problems with them, as well as many other wee critters that need the same environment to live in.
Mulches, as well as rocks, boards, or anything else that will provide a cool, dark habitat, is just what they need and they will then multiply and probably become a source of trouble. If changing the environment means you could control insect pests without spending money on poisons why would not someone do that?
Since the 'monsoons' have letup here, the pill bugs have returned to normal numbers and behavior as far as I can see in the little piece of land we call our yard. The only thing I could have done differently in preparation would be to have not had garden beds during that time.
I wonder if they were flooded out of the ground where they would normally be, cleaning up dead roots? Many plants' roots were damaged or killed by flooding. Without the sun baking and heating, and constant rain/humidity, they wilted away very slowly. So similarly, I wonder if this suddenly creating a huge, fresh bounty for such critters, and at a serendipitous time. The worms were flooded out, I don't see how any soil-dwellers weren't (or just drowned.) It also seems logical that when it's always moist above-ground, the pill bugs would stay 'out' and visible more. I would bank that what happened (here) was a perfectly timed perfect trifecta of conditions.
The temporary condition didn't lead me to believe I could or should do anything about it besides what I did, move some plants in danger, take cuttings. Stir things around, then leave the area, so the birds and other predators can do their thing. Not helpful to those who always have them, I know.
Chickencoupe, I share your frustration! There are people around here who feed stray cats, and/or think pet cats should be allowed to wander freely, and whoo-ee are they multiplying! There are fewer birds but the anole lizards are taking the worst hit so far, and toads. I found a mangy kitty (by following the pitiful sounds of its' crying) abandoned by its' mother (or maybe she was killed by something) behind the biggest offender's house a few weeks ago. He pretended to be surprised when I knocked on the door to show/give it to him (which we discussed standing next to the food bowl on his front porch.) Not to mention the poo I find in my own front yard, hair on the porch furniture, hairballs on the porch floor. Disgusting!
And now, back to our regularly scheduled drought...
I found that keeping some sort of protection at the base of the plant helps keep pill bugs away.
I direct sow almost everything, so I cut up pint milk bottles and other plastic cups and the place rings around my seedlings to protect them from mulch while they are young. Once I took the rings off, the pill bugs came to feast at the base of the plants, so I've been keeping the rings on and it seems to be working. If they find their way in, I just pick them out. My guess is it's difficult for them to crawl up the slick plastic sides. Do be careful though, once you place rings around some plants, they will target unprotected plants in the next few days. Grrr.
This is also in combination with cutting back watering. I live in Texas so I may have been watering too much and overcompensating for our dry weather.
a dusting of lime drove them from one pot i have...they did not like it....the indian