Everything You Need to Know About Roly-Poly Bugs


As the weather begins to get warmer, roly-poly bugs start to come out of hiding. The warm weather is the perfect time for them to start breeding, which makes even more bugs.

If you’ve been working in your yard, garage, or basement and have discovered a pile of creepy-crawlies reminiscent of the bug-slurping scene in “The Lion King,” then you probably have stumbled upon a family of pill bugs.

A Roly-Poly Bug rolling into a ball

If you’ve come across new and unusual insects or other pests in your home, contact Environmental Pest Management for advice and assistance in treating them. We’re your friend for dealing with unwanted insects, arachnids, rodents, and other pests. Whether you have pill bugs or sow bugs—or any different kind of critter that belongs outside, we can identify the problem and implement a solution.

Pill bugs and sowbugs are quite fascinating and can serve as a proper science lesson for your kids or satisfy your curiosity. Check out these facts while you’re dealing with evicting your roly-poly family.

What is a Pill Bug?

Armadillidiidae (the scientific name for pill bugs) have so many different names to choose from. For instance:

  • Armadillo Bugs
  • Doodle Bugs
  • Wood Lice
  • Potato Bugs
  • Roly-polies
  • Wood shrimp

These isopods are found across the U.S., typically in moist areas and around some decaying plant matter. 

They are about ¾-inch long, oval-shaped, and with an armor-like shell. Their shell has seven hard plates, similar to a crayfish. 

Although they are called a bug, they aren’t an insect at all. Pill bugs, and their cousins, the sowbug, are land-dwelling (terrestrial) crustaceans more similar to a lobster than an ant. They are purplish-gray and have seven pairs of legs as well as two jointed antennae. Pill bugs get their nickname of “roly-poly” because of the way they curl up into a ball when startled or disturbed.

A roly-poly bug curling into a ball to protect itself.

What is the Difference between a Pill Bug and a Sowbug?

Many people confuse sow bugs and pill bugs since they look similar at first glance. Sowbugs are slightly smaller than pill bugs and have two small tail-like structures protruded from their back end that pill bugs lack. Sowbugs also cannot roll into a ball as a roly-poly can. Both enjoy similar diets and habits, so you might have one, the other, or both.

Also Read: Secret Bug Breeding Grounds in Your Home This Winter

Where Do Roly-Poly Bugs Live?

Pill bugs are tiny scavengers who eat decaying plant material. They will also eat living plants and can damage the roots of your flowers or vegetables. You will most often find them hiding under logs, leaf piles, stepping stones, landscape timbers, rocks, trash cans, garden debris, flower pots, mulch, compost, or other dark, damp areas. You may also find roly-polies in your storage building, basement, shed, or garage.

Roly-poly bugs’ bodies do not hold water, which is why they need a moist environment. They typically stay hidden during the day and are more active at night. If you turn over a rock or log and uncover roly-polies, they will usually form a circle to protect themselves and not move until you go away. They prefer to be left alone, but you may prefer for them to be somewhere besides in or around your home.

Roly-polies a little prehistoric-looking and creepy, but they pose no harm to you, your family, or your pets. Pill bugs don’t carry any diseases, nor do they sting or bite. They rarely live long after coming indoors because it’s too dry for them. However, if they can find a nice moist corner of your basement or a leaking pipe that provides them with a water source, they may decide to take up residence and even raise a family.

A Roly-Poly Bug or Sow bug in a pile of decaying leaves

Why are Pill Bugs In and Around My Home?

If pill bugs are in your home, it’s likely because they are already rampant around your home’s foundation. They’ve found their way inside via cracks in your walls, your doors, windows, or ill-fitting screens. They’re most common in damp basements and first-floor bathrooms.

If your yard has excessive moisture or your gutters and downspouts drain close to your foundation, you could be making a haven for pill bugs. If your outside population is large, some enterprising rolly-pollies may seek out the inside of your home for an additional food source and shelter. Additionally, heavy rains can drive pill bugs inside your home to protect them from the pelting rain and the flooding of their common areas.

Also Read: Good Bugs for Your Garden

How Do I Get Rid of Roly-Polies

Pill bugs crave moisture. To get rid of pill bugs, you’ll have to address how your home and yard are hospitable to them. Reducing moisture around your home will send pill bugs packing.

  • Check Your Gutters: Are they blocked or clogged? Leaf debris in your gutters is a haven for roly-polies.
  • Check Your Downspouts: If your downspouts dump their contents close to your home’s foundation, you’ll be making a nice moist area for pill bugs to prosper. Consider extending your downspout or adding a splash block to divert the water farther from your foundation.
  • Consider a dehumidifier: If your basement is chronically damp, a dehumidifier will help reduce the likelihood of mold and mildew as well as make your basement less hospitable to roly-polies.
  • Watch your wood piles: If you keep firewood near your house, it makes an ideal home for pill bugs. Create a frame for your wood to keep it off the ground and refrain from stacking against your home.
  • Maintain your mulch: Keep your landscape mulch 6-12″ away from your foundation to keep pill bugs from finding their way into your home.
  • Lure them out with half of a cantaloupe or a hollowed-out potato. The pill bugs will be attracted to the moisture and get inside. You can then put them in the woods away from your home.
  • Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around your flower pots or in the area where you just found pill bugs. It will dry them out and kill them.

Someone cleaning bright yellow leaves out of a gutter to deter Roly-Poly Bugs

Environmental Pest Management Knows Pill Bugs and More

If you’d rather have someone else deal with your pill bug problem, give us a call at Environmental Pest Management. Our team will be out to inspect, plan, and execute your unwanted creepy critters. We use eco-friendly methods whenever possible to trust that you and your family and pets will be safe. Schedule an appointment today.

47 Replies to “Everything You Need to Know About Roly-Poly Bugs”

      1. To protect themselves because if you disrupted where they’re lying at and or Living they close up to protect 🥷🏼themselves and stay real still unless they’re on the hill and then they rollie poly away

      1. I have 2 as pets and I keep them is a container that’s most for my kid, and he is so fascinated by them ist crazy

  1. Why is there ticks that resemble roly polys? All over my dogs and now in my bed and I think they bite me. I’ve seen ticks and this are very much disguised as Riley Lily’s they have blood inside.

      1. they are not bed bugs. bed bugs feed off of your blood when your are most vulnerable. In your sleep. Ticks just go for the gusto and jump on without thinking twice. And, they change form after adulthood, unlike bed bugs.

        1. Usually ticks hang on and don’t wanna let go even to humans and if they’re all over your bed and they’re that big that’s scary & that would freak me out and I would like be up an entire 24 hours changing sheets scrubbing cleaning and reading to get rid of whatever was is in my bed but most likely if they’re on ur dog then they most likely ticks if they’re stuck into him/her
          Or if they’re all over in your bed those are possibly bedbugs and if they’re not that big…🤔who knows what you got if they’re as big as a tick good grief.
          If you just have a huge number of roly-poly’s that moved in And somehow got in your dogs for which you would probably have to be a pretty furry dog and then laid in your bed and maybe rolled them all over into your bed or fell off of the dog.

    1. I must stop reading all of this right now, it’s making me itch just because mentally I’m thinking all this and I’m like itching everywhere now. Good luck everyone on any type of bug issues you may have. I have a roly-poly problem so I came here to try to get rid of them I don’t want to keep killing them but I don’t want them in my house when I have grandbabies around and I’m talking a little bitty babies.

    2. Those have soft bodies that swell up with blood. They are dog ticks. You need to get a tick repellent for your dog, or handpick these off.
      They are not bedbugs or pill bugs.

  2. Great info. Noticed the last couple days them dragging vegetation around and have never seen them do that before. Didnt know that’s what they ate.

  3. Why would you want to get rid of them outside your home? I thought they help to eliminate heavy metals like mercury, cadmium and lead? They don’t hurt you or animals. Do they cause harm to the soil or plants? Just wondering.

  4. Roly poly bugs primarily eat decaying matter and rarely eat living plants. Usually, they have a positive effect and improve soil quality. This is not a creature you should worry yourself over.

    1. They sure do live in Minnesota. I am in the twin cities and there are some around the outside of my place…a few have made it indoors which is what brought me to this site.

  5. roly poly bugs remove dangerous metals from groundwater so just let them be..they can’t hurt you and eat decaying plant matter, not healthy plants…if you don’t like them, clean your damn yard

  6. I have a big problem with pill bugs also called rolie polies, there are hundred of them in my garden and have eaten several young newly planted vegetable plants. I hope the powder Savin for pests will work but I have my doubts. Any extra assistance is appreciated, thanks.

    1. I also have a huge amount of pill bugs. Crazy huge amount! They’re eating my hostas and even found one on my daisy flower head. Now my daisies are dying. How can you get rid of these things?? There are so many it looks like my ground is moving! And yes, I clean the debris out of my beds 🤔

  7. they eat decaying things. and get sick when they eat moldy things. but there favorite is lettuce.

  8. They make great pets I have some. They crawl on your hand and dig and take shelter in leaves THEY’RE SO CUTE

  9. Hello,

    I have a pet roly poly ( I know kind of weird ) , but how can I take care of it…and how would I know if it is pregnant/female because everytime I touch it it will roll into a ball….

    – Please Help!

  10. I’ve kept roly polies now for about a year. They love squash, zucchini and carrots and DO NOT like sweet potatoes. They are fascinating to watch, usually very active in the morning — I’m in SE Texas but I’m worried that my enclosure is getting overpopulated.

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