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Rollie Pollie- Pill Bugs

Posted by gussy z7 Tx. (My Page) on
Wed, May 28, 03 at 10:13

Help can someone tell me how to control these bugs. I know they help with the decaying of stuff, but do they also have to eat everything else. They are everywhere in the shade garden and sometimes I find them out in the veggis. So can someone tell me what to do. I would like to use a home remendy, if that can be done.


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RE: Rollie Pollie- Pill Bugs

  • Posted by Jonesy z6 midwest (My Page) on
    Fri, May 30, 03 at 19:48

I use poison pellets I buy at the nursery. some say cormeal works, but haven't tried it. They don't bother my plants when they get older and tougher.


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RE: Rollie Pollie- Pill Bugs

  • Posted by Miah z7 TX (My Page) on
    Thu, May 6, 04 at 13:06

We've had problems with Rollie Pollies too. My wife and I implemented what we learned from the Dirt Doctor's book and it is working great! Set out small containers (we used small coffee cups) in the problem areas. Place the cups down in the ground so that the brim is at or barely above ground level. Boil water with two packets of yeast in a medium-sized pot to dissolve the yeast. Pour the yeast solution (FYI - you can use beer also, but the yeast packets are really cheap) into the cups. Put covers over the containers to keep rain water (yard water) and other elements from diluting the solution. We used small cheap water retainers that you put below small pots and put a few rocks on top of the retainers to keep them from blowing away. You'll get rid of pesty snails, rollie pollies and beatles (but not lady bugs). And if you have a lot you need to get rid of quick, Seven dust works great.


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Are they a threat to new plantings? My neighboor gave us about 20 scoops of compost to help us build up some new beds - I noticed that it was full of rollie pollies. Are they gonna eat all my new stuff?


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RE: Rollie Pollie- Pill Bugs

Yes, they are going to eat up all the new stuff if they can. I am currently fighting this battle with them and losing. I do not want to use pesticides, but I am almost about to give in. They especially chew up seedlings and small plants with soft stems like squash. Every morning I see about 20 of them on each of my little plants chewing at the stem. I am now using collars around my seedlings to keep them getting eaten.
Every where I have read that these insects do not eat the plants, WILL somebody tell them!
Since you are starting now, you may want to use some means chemical or other to get rid of them first before you plant anything.


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RE: Rollie Pollie- Pill Bugs

They prefer tender seedlings. They often nestle just under the soil at the base of tender bean sprouts and munch away. After the plants become more mature (assuming they live), they don't appeal to the critters any more. You can start seedlings in pots in a safe place and transplant them to the garden when they are a little more mature.

My neighbor also disagrees with me about these being harmful, but I know from experience they make it difficult to grow beans from seed.

These things drive me nuts. Sometimes when I water they pop out and walk around, and then I get them by hand.


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I have never known these ugly bugs to do anything but be ugly. I'm amazed to hear of them eating up your garden babies. Perhaps it's a zonal thing? I've never seen them crawling on a plant in my area. Courious....


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If there are this many of any single type of bug, something's out of balance. I would try to address the source of the problem, whatever that may be. There are probably many different predators of these in your area. Do a little research on attracting one or more of them to do the work for you. Get a bird bath. Loitering birds will eat these and other bugs.

(Shuddering at the thought of putting 'poison pellets' in a veggie garden!)

Intrepidgardener, yes, from the comments I've read about these bugs on these forums the past few years, it seems these critters are a much bigger problem in warmer climates than they are for us northerners. They do like to eat my primrose blooms and johnny jump-ups. I've seen them doing it.


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i too have those darn rolly polly's,and now i see alot down in our basement.i cannot stand it,when i lift one of my plant containers up,and they are just THICK.i guess i'll try some cornmeal,for now,any other suggestions,or homemade remedies please e-mail me.
juanitabyers@cox.net
thanks all!! nita


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The only place I have a serious problem with rollie pollies is under some lights that stay on all night on the north side of my house. I have set pots there before and when I get ready to plant them, they're full of rollie pollies instead of roots. I think the lights have something to do with it because I don't have quite so many in other parts of my yard. I don't think it's a problem where there are only a few. They don't seem to bother the plants at all there.


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Did you know rolly-pollies aren't insects at all? They're actually a type of landbound crustacean! I didn't believe it either, but I read it on the Internet, so it must be true, lol.

That's all I wanted to say. Sorry I don't have anything actually useful to contribute. :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Rolly-pollies are crustaceans!


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RE: Rollie Pollie- Pill Bugs

Borrow someone's chickens, or get your own hen (roosters are too noisy anyway). But be careful, because after the chickens finsh the main course of sowbugs/pill bugs they will go after your young vegetables. But man, will they go nuts over those rollie pollies.
I haven't tried ducks, but I imagine they would work as well.
Eric in Japan


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RE: Rollie Pollie- Pill Bugs

I had very good luck this year controlling Pill Bugs & Slugs in my shade garden. What I did is remove every scrap of debri around my emerging Hostas etc., just as they were emerging this spring. I left not 1 piece of a leaf or twig from the crowns of the plants. I am amazed at the difference. I have had almost no problem with either of the pests.


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I normally hang out at other forums at GW but was doing some research on shade plants and came to this forum. I was curious about the title of this thread so I read it. I am curious because the other day while transplanting I found very BLUE rollie pollies. Has anyone ever heard of that? I have lived in a number of states and love the outdoors and never have I seen that before. Anyway, it was very interesting and I hope someone else may have had this expereince. Happy gardening!


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In Ireland we call these fellows "woodlice" (because they like decaying/rotting wood, timber, etc.) or "slaters" (because of their slate colour). They're to be found everywhere there's moist conditions. We are also told over here by the "experts" that they do no harm - only eat dead stuff - but I too have seen them damage other living plants, etc. There is available on the market a sort of derris powder that deals effectively with them.

Ever time I see them they remind me of a particular period in my life. Ten years ago I had a cat who presented me with a litter of kittens about two weeks after my first wife died. Sometimes one of these bugs would come into the kitchen and get pounced upon by mother-cat who would scoop it up with her paw, whereupon it would roll up into a tight ball. Then the kittens would join in and play "ping-pong" with the poor critter for a while, batting it back and forth. My, how it used to give me occasion to laugh during that difficult period!


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i have cantalope plants and everywhere i look rolly pollys are chomping holes in it.but i mostly see them pn the cantalopes
it looks like they are eating it and leaving this yellow slime
behind.does anyone have a remedy???? i'll try the ones i've read :). HELP


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So I am still wondering has anyone ever seen blue ones. I found another one last week. They are annoying but very pretty. Anyway, sorry I can't help cause they aren't a big problem for me.


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I HATE THESE BUGS!!!! They have destroyed all of my seedlings, I read that a mild soap solution sprayed around the plants will keep these little pests away.


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I agree with Oraganic Texas, I've found these bad guys nestled in down around the very base of bean seedlings, chewing away at the new growth. I know other people say they are harmless, but I don't think they are.


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I had a real problem with roly poly bugs. They were committing suicide in my garden pond by the hundreds each day and I am not kidding. Did some research and found out about diatomacheous earth. Got some at a local nursery and sprinkled it around everywhere I found roly polys and 2 days later the problem was solved. But you will have to reapply when they come back. Complete natural. Here's a website that explains it.

http://www.hydromall.com/happy_grower16.html


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Blue Rollie Pollies: I have them here in Ohio. We call them Potato Bugs! Ours are a little more greyish blue. I too saw the title and came in to check it out. Once I saw the link that TaraRose left I realized who the culprit is. They must be blue up here in the eastern midwest to east coast areas. Haven't had a problem with them as of yet, but since I just put in a new bed with plenty of tender plants I will be mindful of them! Thanks!


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I have these guys getting into my house by the hundreds and I sweep them up several times a day with the broom. I spray house hold ant and roach spray on them and they just keep on running. How do you kill these guys and keep them out of your house. HELP!!!!!!!!


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HELP ME!!!! I am not a gardener, I am simply trying to have a nice bug free existence, and these HORRIBLE little creatures are EVERYWHERE I look! I cannot bear the thought of walking onto my ground level patio because they are crawling all over everything! Not only that, but somehow, someway they have found a way to get into my apartment and they are impossible to kill. I've tried Raid as well as a Black Flag sprayed directly on the little buggers and all they do is ball up, then walk away a few moments later! AAAAAAHHHH! I cannot live like this! Please tell me how to kill these awful things before I'm driven completely insane. I need indoor and outdoor options please! Please send information to my email address asap! amyignatowski@charter.net Thank you!


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  • Posted by buzzy 8PugetSound (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 15, 08 at 6:43

I haven't seen a single rolly-polly for four years - 3 hens on half an acre and they've eaten all the bugs. Also earwigs.

And the sweepings from their coop makes an awesome manure tea. Besides, they're cute lawn ornaments. Delicious eggs.

They don't bother established plantings at all, but they will kick your mulch around so put up a barrier.


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Roly Polies turn blue when they are molting, which they do quite a bit. They live from 3-5 years and live in family groups. They love anything moist and will start to eat any plant that is thinking of dying. The best way to solve the problem that I have found is to let my kids and neighborhood kids come and play with them. That just about does them in. They are very touch friendly. If you can hold lady bugs, you can hold and play with roly polies. Their favorite food is watermelon rind, so, maybe put some rinds in the proximity of your seedlings and they will be so drawn to them that they will leave your seedlings alone. Let me know if this works!


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I heard that the blue ones had a disease or infection... not sure if it's true.

All I know is that they have no problems eating my emerging hostas every spring... grrr...


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well I lost a young tree last year and when I took it up it had thousands of rollie pollies around the roots. And just yesterday I went out to clean around my returning plants and again there were hundreds or more all in the dirt under the mulch. we need the mulch to keep down weeds but now I am really worried that this many will kill my good plants. There are even around the bottom of my weeping cherry I planted last year. I have never seen so many in my life. And I need to know how to stop them. I will try some of these suggestions that I read here. Wish me luck.


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As an avid composter, doing my best to garden organically and avoid pesticides - pesticides suck! They are one of the reasons we are losing our honeybee populations. I see these critters in my shade garden, where it's moist. I'm setting out new seedlings there this year, after removing all decaying matter from last yrs wildflower shade garden. I'm going to try to catch them with the snail and slug bait- handpick the ones i see and throw them out for the birds, and the best: bury a small jelly jar or bowl at the level of soil and fill with STALE beer. They will come to drink, and drown. But try handpicking as many as you see, and dispose of them. Maybe there's a website for the control of them? Or set out trap plants-- ones you don't mind losing-- first--let them munch on them while you learn to remove them. Best of luck to you!!!


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You just cannot hand-pick them when they number in the thousands. They ate my marigolds two years in a row - and it was most certainly the "roly polies," not slugs nor any other bug, because I observed them at the main stem of the plant this year and watched carefully. They certainly love moist, dark places and decaying plant matter, but they will eat green, living plants.

I am trying something called "Lilly Miller Worry Free Slug and Snail Bait," since none of the home remedies have done anything effective for me (beer traps, damp newspaper, removing all garden debris) and diatomaceous earth only seemed to deter the slugs. The ingredient is 1% Iron Phosphate and unfortunately the other 99% is "Inert Ingredients," undefined. The packaging claims that it's pet safe. You can read the label and the MSDS at the link I've provided. This company makes something that targets sowbugs (another name for roly-polies) but I will not use it because it is carbaryl, an insecticide, known to be harmful to bees. Also I will not use any slug killer that uses metaldehyde (toxic to animals).

I'm not certain that this will deter the roly-polies but I have read on these forums that others have had success with the method. Search "What is eating my marigolds" for results on the Oklahoma Gardening Forum here to find that post.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lilly Miller Worry Free MSDS


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They don't eat plants? Ha! That's a myth! I have a fountain above the pool and the top has a planter. I filled it with potting soil and planted a variety of plants. Days later I noticed that the sweet potato vines looked weird. I climbed up to have a look and there were so many rollie pollies in the soil I was dumbfounded! Yes, hundreds! And, my weird looking sweet potato vine was missing a lot of leaves-all chewed off! I began moving leaves and there were the rollie pollies all nestled among the plants eating to their heart's content! I also noticed that I have a ton of small snails as well but the snails were not found among (on) the plants. I came to the internet to see how to get rid of these demons. Can't believe I need to buy them a drink! Sheesh! Who knew I would need to liquor them up to get rid of them! Well, whatever it takes! Going to the county line in the morning and buy my rollie pollies a bottle of beer! Good luck to everyone else!


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I know this will sound VERY strange to you guys but, my daughter LOVES these bugs. I have not started to plant my garden yet and am now (after reading all your posts) scared to start it!
Anyways, my daughter LOVES these things! She has actually started a bug collection that inclided only rollie pollie. We, however, do not have a clue what to put in there for them to eat! I have soil, dead and alive grass.
Does anyone have anything else I can feed these things. She opens the container (air holes are provided, of course) every day to find the majority of them dead. Her little face breaks my heart! I need to keep these little things alive, for her sake!
There are LITERALLY hundreds, maybe thousand, of these things in our backyard. We have wild onions that grow back there but, I never see them sprout. I tried putting in the surrounding soil and grass that we find them in into the container.
ANY help you guys have would be GREATLY appreciated! My daughter is 3 years old and she ACTUALLY names these damn things! every one we collect, she has a new name for it.

Thanks!!


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Wow, am amazed by the multitude of other annoyed gardeners!

I will try the recommendations and check back in when I find a solution.

oh, I googled Seven Dust to see if it was harmful. Turns out it is.....at least to your ears. Sevendust is a heavy metal band (the bug killer is spelled Sevin dust) LOL


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They are nibbling my radishes at and just under the surface of the soil. I sliced the ends off a cantaloupe (kept the good part for myself) and placed them face down near the infestation. In the morning, hundreds underneath to be scraped away and scooped up. Put the melon back and more came running. But there seems to be an endless supply.


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i have aprox. 160 italian cypresses and these lil bugs are killing them they r munching down on em like they were at a salad bar..i have all sizes of these trees it doesnt mater size these bugs r killing em all..is so sad ..i was told to use crushed shell ..does anyone else think this will work


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i have an infestation at my house - they live outside, but they crawl into my basement and die - i have carcasses in 2 corners specifically. I just bought this house, and i dont like bugs...any bugs... so i sprayed inside and outside with EcoSmart - its proven to kill pill bugs as well! check it out! plus its pet friendly, human friendly, and environment friendly!!!
http://blog.ecosmart.com/index.php/2008/09/19/pill-bugs/

Here is a link that might be useful: EcoSmart - How to get rid of pill bugs


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Well everyone I did find an answer to these bug that have been invading selective spot in my garden. My source is nonother than the renowned Jerry Baker. I purchased his book 'Backyard Problem Solver' On pg 186 Jerry says they basically do not rubbing alcohol. But for the garden he suggests 2 methods which he says you can decide which one to use. Spraying with a mixture with alcohol and water may damage leaves. The next method mist spray the bugs with1 teaspoon of baby shampoo and liquid Seven (carbaryl) or Total Pest Control at the recommended rate on the label per quart of water. The baby shampoowill help the insecticide coat those mealybugs and they will be gone in a day.


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I have been fighting the fight of rollie pollies and ants for two seasons now. I didn't figure it out till the end of the season last year. I didn't fiture it out till I did a search to figure out what was eating my marigolds I had ironically planted to keep bugs out. They eat everything but the veins in the leaves. Not sure if it is both the ants and rollie pollies. My big fault is I have been using carpet as a weed barrier. It works great but it provides the perfect habitat for ants and rollies. They are in the millions! I have tried 7 dust but it only killed a couple. Diatamacous Earth has only been mildly effective. I have just sprinkled corn grits and the ants went crazy. I will keep you posted if i find the perfect soloution!!!


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  • Posted by sandura 7 Mid-Atlantic (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 23, 11 at 16:06

I have thousands of these in my garden, too. Mine are gray, not blue, so far as I know.

They do not bother me. They only seem to eat weakened plants, or only a few of my plants, if it is they who are the culprit rather than the grubs that I only uncover when I dig enough.

I see them as part of larger population in the garden, some among many workers digesting the mulches. If I found them inside my basement, I would have to figure out what was decomposing in the basement, and I would promptly buck up and buy a dehumidifier. More slowly, I would work on solving water infiltration issues by structural means. These guys are not the real problem in a basement or patio, they are a symptom of some water and/or decay problems. If they really drive you crazy, you could just garden and get more soil onto your bare hands and feet daily for a few weeks, which increases your norepineprine and serotonin levels, and helps you feel happy and calm.

If you want to get rid of pill bugs, just grow your seedlings enough to have longish roots before planting; water well but not too frequently; mulch less or not at all for a while; attract wild birds to feed in your garden (if you do not have outdoor cats that hunt, that is).

No need to poison the bees and the waters with insecticides; keep your land dry and dust or sprinkle it with diamtomaceous earth; this will work wonders if you must kill them. Reapply a dusting after the grounds is truly dry after any rain or watering. Better yet, if a bit slower, buy bird seed, plant three viable trees in bare yards in the early fall, and bring worker birds into your yard. Sparrows and robins are fine.

My pill bugs are rife in my slow compost pile, which is full if large twigs and branches. They clearly like wood (and help to break it down--which I want!) so rake up your wood chips if you used that as mulch, and let your land go dry--they will disappear. I want and need them, myself--I have too many woody stems to deal with. I don't care if they eat a few seedlings, or even a few shrubs. The garden will balance itself with time and care, a bit of wildlife, compost and living roots.


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I think they suck the life out of all my flowers and one by one kill them all. I have seen this happen 2 years in a row.


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I've read that when they are blue they are actually lacking some sort of mineral in their diet and can be close to dying. Thousands of them being blue sounds odd and something else entirely. Anyway up here in the Northwest I've never seen hundred of thousands of them like I've read in the previous posts, I came on here because my kids also like to play with them and I was wondering what they ate. Well now I know to keep them away from my garden goods! I have more problems with snails than with the roly poly's and used the beer traps for them. Expensive trick, and after a few are in the others can get out. You have to constantly maintain them by refilling with beer; even cheap beer gets costly after a while, and checking them and pulling the drowned ones out, because eventually the ones that come after can drink, then climb right back out! GRRR.


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Well I also have a huge infestation ughhh they are boreing holes in my pumpkins that are basketball size to the huge ones I have tried many of these remedies but they continue to ruin my veggies:-( they were eattin my onions as well the only thing they.dont bother are green bell peppers. I think im going to try the sevin dust next.


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I think if they are eating live plants it means they are in such high populations that they are starving and desperate.

DO NOT USE PESTICIDES. Ask any ecologist - herbivores reproduce more quickly than their predators.

That means that if you use pesticides, you kill the predator species along with their prey. The predators take years to come back to their previous populations, while the prey begin repopulating almost immediately. But there's nothing to eat them; what you end up with is a population explosion.

I would just let this spike in rollie pollie population run its course - it's inconvenient but part of your ecosystem. Eventually a large predator such as birds or toads will discover them and begin frequenting the area. And spiders (probably ground-dwelling types that you will never even notice) will move in and begin controlling the population.

If you use pesticides, another issue is that the ecological role healthy stable populations of rollie pollies fill - consuming dead plant material - is empty. Well OK, you might think, in North America they are not a native species anyway so this is hardly an environmental problem. BUT with pesticides you have also killed off your millipedes, earthworms and other detritus eaters.

What you need is a number of competing species so they all put a manageable tax on their specific niche - maybe one will nibble a seedling here and there, maybe a millipede or two will eat a strawberry or onion plant, maybe an earwig or two will punch a hole in a leaf - but if they are all in competition, they will not be enough of any one species to kill your plants and their role will be generally positive.

If you are having an immediate, pressing problem, I would try shifting things around to disrupt their habitat. And again, welcome other species in to your garden.


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Hi There,

I have the same problem ever time I plant seedlings they are eaten over night I have just looked up on the Gardening Australia web site and they have some great ideas.

http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s2577408.htm

You don't want to kill them but here is how you can stop them from eating your seedlings:

Growing strawberries in pots or growing melons over structures keeps the plants and fruit off the ground and reduces the likelihood of slater damage.
When sowing seed keep mulch well clear of the furrow as slaters don't like venturing far from cover
Make traps from hollowed out orange halves or seedling punnets filled with potato peelings, to distract slaters from seedlings, and germinating seeds.
When it comes to seedlings, try plant collars (old pots with the bottom chopped out) for the first couple of weeks, or pot on seedlings to establish them before planting out. Once the stems become tougher, they're less attractive to slaters.
Iron chelate based snail pellets are also effective against slaters and, as they break down, they release iron to feed the plants. They're safer than traditional snail pellets for use around pets, children and wildlife but they should be stored and used with caution and common sense.
In larger gardens, rotating chooks over vegie beds in between crops is a great way to clear up infestation and provide your birds with protein.


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Well, I have lots of rolly-pollies, but I must say I haven't had a problem with them. Maybe, as a few people have suggested, the birds are a help: I have a family of English sparrows that live in the shrubbery next to the garden.

I did have a problem with slugs, which like the same conditions and do similar damage as pillbugs. They completely ate the pretty Japanese ginger and beech ferns that I planted. Besides birds, I have occasional visitors of toads, box turtles, and wood frogs, and I prefer not to use bait or apply pesticides. I recommend (1) attracting birds and (2) trying the plants that your particular pests don't like. My heucheras and violets are not bothered by pillbugs or slugs, and I bought varieties of hostas that were noted for non-preference of slugs. There are plenty of types of ferns that aren't bothered by these pests.

And I tried Canadian ginger (Asarum canadense? canadensis? Not going to look it up) to replace the Japanese ginger, and it gets no slug damage whatsoever.


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My rollie's luvvvvv beer! i simply placed plastic champagne cups(4 inch wide, 2 inch deep) in the problem areas @ ground level and filled them with budwiser. Although there are still many rollies around they stopped eating my garden and moved to beach front property.
Next plan of attack! Paprika!


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I know this thread is old but I figured someone might find this info useful.
There is several different species called "rollie pollie, roly poly, potato bug, and pillbug".
They look pretty much similar, but some will eat plants and the others don't touch plants. Hence the conflicting info.

Also the brilliant blue or purple colouring is a virus. Very pretty but they die within a week.


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Try to keep the Cantelope and melons up off the ground and it should help ward off damage to some of the fruit. Also tomatoes, I have had more damage to tomatoes than any other veg or fruit. I know this is not greatly helpful, but it's my 2 cents.


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something is eating my garden( beans, peas, parsley& basil) and I don't know what else. After reading this forum I was watching closely. I thought earwigs were, but no sign of them.
After reading everything I could and trying so many things, I have been using Orange rind and dump them into a small amount of bleach and hand pick what are on the ground. At the end of each day I take the cup out into the woods and dump them onto the biggest ant hill I have ever seen.
If anyone wants to reppermand me go ahead because I found nothing to kill them and I didn't want to use sprays.
Thanks to all for all the information.


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I am using a pyrethrin and piperonyl butoxide insecticide (called 'Schultz Expert') spray. It appears to work. I have put the rollys in a dish, sprayed, and watched them die. I will buy Diatomaceous earth (I want all ammunition). These things are costing me in money for my therapist ( who I am now seeing due to these pests).


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Life is much too short to allow pests to upset us that much.

This post was edited by pkponder on Mon, Jun 24, 13 at 6:34


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RE: Rollie Pollie- Pill Bugs

In the pacific northwest as a child we always called them potato bugs - I believe they ate the potato seedlings but have never seen them bother anything else. I came to this forum because all of a sudden I have millions - we're in Colorado now. My rock garden was overrun with vinca so I roundup'd it and I think the dying roots must be what attracted the pill bugs. Now when lifting any rock, log, or pulling out any dead root in the rock garden area, there are thousands of them. I am assuming once the dying vinca roots are turned to mulch the bugs will move on; if they don't I'll come back and update. My veggie garden is beautiful this year with no insect damage at all yet the compost bin five feet away is filled with pill bugs. Maybe you who have a problem don't have enough to feed them. My rhubarb is in sad, sad shape from earwigs - I'll move on to another forum for an answer to that problem. Just for fun I want you to know that when I was growing up in Oregon the boys always used potato bugs / pill bugs instead of spit wads - they just fly through a straw - made us girls scream a lot :)


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RE: Rollie Pollie- Pill Bugs

This might help for anyone willing to try. I have them in the millions everywhere. They must be dealt with.

Here is a link that might be useful: Helpful discussion


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