Sowbug Control | Tips for Avid Gardeners

By Allison Clayton

Sowbugs: A regular inhabitant of gardens and flower pots. Nestled within the soil and mulch, you can find them roaming under roots, rocks, and old logs. 

If you plant in the spring, you may scoop up a sowbug as you break up the soil. While these pests aren’t a danger, they are a visual nuisance. Check out this article to learn about more sowbugs and how to control them in your home and garden. 

So, What is a Sowbug?

Sowbugs aren’t insects, despite what their name suggests. These tiny critters are woodlice, a type of land-dwelling isopod. 

Isopods generally live in the sea, where some can grow over a foot long. The sowbug slightly resembles their aquatic counterparts, but most grow no larger than an inch long.

These prehistoric-looking creatures are relatives of crustaceans that roamed the seas millions of years ago. Now, sowbugs are closely related to water-bound isopods and other crustaceans like crabs and shrimp. 

While these creepy crawlers look unappealing, they are a beneficial addition to the environment. A sowbug feeds on deteriorating plants and animals, consuming and removing decaying materials on the ground. Through this process, they help nurture the surrounding soil.

Sowbugs primarily live outdoors, but don’t be alarmed if you spot one in your home. They won’t cause any damage to your property and can’t survive without a moist environment. Many people even keep these mini isopods as pets!

What’s the Difference Between a Sowbug and a Pill bug?

With a casual glance, it’s easy to mistake a sowbug for a pill bug. The two woodlice are often considered the same because of their nearly identical appearances. With a casual glance, they’re pretty difficult to tell apart.

Both share a similar diet and tend to inhabit the same areas. Like most crustaceans, woodlice breathe from gills and need sufficient moisture from the soil to breathe effectively.

The pill bug goes by many names, and you probably know them as “rolly pollies” or potato bugs. Pill bugs have a defense mechanism that sets them apart from a sowbug. They can roll up into a tight ball whenever they feel threatened.

Sowbugs can’t contort themselves like pill bugs, and they have two appendages on their bottoms that a pill bug lacks. If you see one quickly roll into a ball, you will know what crustacean you have on your hands.

A graphic detailing the differences between a sowbug and a pill bug.

What Should I do About Sowbugs in my Garden?

You can usually leave these pests alone if you spot them outside. They are typically a beneficial addition to your garden or yard because of their impact on the environment. 

They won’t bite you or damage anything inside your home either. Because they can’t live away from moist environments, these little creatures won’t last long inside. 

While a sowbug primarily eats decaying plant and animal matter, these tiny crustaceans can cause issues if they begin feasting on your plant’s roots and leaves. If you believe an infestation is causing problems in your garden, you could think about ways to control their population. 

Are There Pest Control Options?

If they aren’t impacting your garden or living in your home, you could consider keeping them around. These miniature isopods are an aid to the environment and will help clean up debris in your yard. However, there are ways to control their populations if they become an issue. 

Regularly Tend Your Lawn and Garden 

Clean up old wood and rake all of the leaves in your yard. As they begin to decay, sowbugs will feed on the dying plant matter. Avoid overwatering your garden or potted plants as the pests enjoy the increased moisture. 

Regularly tend to your plants and dispose of any fallen leaves or fruits. The decomposing material could entice sowbugs to gather around your plants, and they may feed on roots and leaves once they run out of food.

Because they gravitate to damp locations, you should also avoid leaving any wet items in your home or garage and repair areas suffering from water damage. 

Use Pesticides and Poisons 

Spray a pesticide along doorways, windows, and the exterior of your home. The pesticide should prevent anything from coming indoors and could deter other insects from entering your home. However, be wary of spraying chemicals in your yard or near your plants because the wrong formula may damage your garden or yard. 

For a natural solution, you can sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the soil. Diatomaceous earth is typically food grade and won’t harm your plants. As the sowbugs consume the powder, it will slowly break down their exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate.

Create Traps for Your Garden

You can also create traps to thin out sowbug populations. Place a piece of fruit or vegetable on a plate or in a container in your garden. Heavily water the area around the trap to entice them to gather near the food. 

You can return the next morning and dispose of any you see on the traps, but you may have some luck checking your garden at night. Sowbugs are nocturnal creatures and may come out at nighttime to take a bite. Check out this video on pill bug control if you want to try a similar technique.

Keep One as Pet

While they aren’t as cute as a puppy or kitten, they are easy pets to own. If you want to get these critters out of your garden and avoid harming them, you could keep them as pets.

Grab a fish tank from your local pet store and scoop up any of the pests you find in your garden or yard. Provide the enclosure with ample soil, food, and moisture to maintain the population in your tank. 

Take a look at this article if you want more information on keeping sowbugs as pets. 

Contact a Professional Pest Control Company

Large quantities of sowbugs may be difficult to handle, especially in your home. While these tiny pests won’t cause damage, they are an unsightly annoyance if they take up residence in your garage or basement. 

A pest control agency can help eliminate sowbugs in your garden, too. If you want to turn towards professional pest control to cull your pest problem, proof. can help. Our services cover over 30 varieties of pests, and we can find a solution for your infestation.  

Contact us today to learn more about our services.

Call proof. pest control at , or send us a message online.

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