Guide to Rolly Polly Bugs: How to Get rid of Pill Bugs


Pill bugs, also known as rolly-polly bugs, can be commonly found in gardens throughout the country. Their distinctive “rolly-polly” name comes from their tendency to curl into a ball shape when disturbed. While these bugs play a helpful role in breaking down organic matter and enriching the soil, their large numbers can pose a threat as they feed on tender roots, leaves, and vegetables.

Interestingly, pill bugs are not insects; they belong to the group of land-based crustaceans. Thriving in moist environments, they prefer hiding under damp mulch, well-watered flower pots resting on the ground, and beneath rocks. On occasion, they may venture into houses and can survive in damp conditions. If you’re facing a pill bug infestation and looking for effective ways to get rid of it, this blog has you covered.

How to Identify Pill Bug Infestations? 

Concerned about a potential pill bug takeover in your home? Watch out for signs like yellowing or wilting leaves, holes in foliage, or struggling seedlings. Detecting these symptoms early is key to preventing further damage to your plants.

How to Get Rid of Rolly Polly Bugs (Pill Bugs) In Your Home and Garden

  1. Keep Your Basement Dry

Sowbugs and pillbugs thrive on moisture, and without it, they typically meet their demise within around two days. Not only pillbug infestation can be prevented by opting for a moisture-drying approach but it also helps prevent other basement bugs. If you notice persistent issues in structural framing, it could be linked to landscaping allowing roof runoff to saturate walls or an excess of mulch around the foundation, maintaining moist conditions. Addressing these concerns will go a long way in eliminating pillbugs and sowbugs from your space.

  1. Use an Insecticide

To address the intrusion of pill bugs into your home, consider employing insecticides in the form of sprays, baits, or granules.

When opting for a commercial pesticide product, adhere closely to safety instructions, ensuring it remains inaccessible to children and pets. Prioritize personal safety by wearing gloves and a mask during the application of the insecticide to prevent skin contact and inhalation.

  1. Use Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth

Food-grade diatomaceous earth, commonly known as DE, proves effective in pest control. Comprising fossilized remains of aquatic organisms, its minuscule silica particles boast razor-sharp edges capable of penetrating the pill bug’s exoskeleton, leading to dehydration and eventual demise.

While DE is generally non-toxic, precautionary measures are advisable, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Potential irritations to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system can occur if inhaled or used excessively. Ensure its placement away from high-traffic zones and out of reach of pets and children.

  • When purchasing DE, opt for the food-grade variant, avoiding pool- or garden-grade alternatives.
  • During application, safeguard yourself with an N95 mask, eye protection, gloves, and long clothing.
  • Apply DE strategically in low-traffic areas with observed pill bug activity. The DE will eliminate existing rolly-pollys and absorb excess moisture.
  • Upon completion of its task, dampen the DE to create a mud-like consistency, preventing airborne particles. Subsequently, wipe it away to maintain a clean and controlled environment.
  1. Consider Using Essential Oils

Pill bugs, much like many insects, aren’t big fans of essential oils. This includes varieties like rosemary, oregano, citronella, citrus, cinnamon, tea tree, and peppermint. For effective use, mix essential oils with water and spray the solution in areas where you’ve noticed these rolly-pollys. However, exercise caution and keep the mixture away from children and pets.

It’s worth noting that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals highlights the potential dangers of essential oils to pets, leading to symptoms such as unsteadiness, vomiting, and low body temperature. To create a spray for controlling rolly-pollys, mix 4 drops of essential oil with 1 gallon of soapy water. Transfer the solution into a spray bottle and apply it to the areas where you’ve observed the pests.

  1. Create a Compost Trap

Pill bugs have a particular relationship with compost, making it an effective way to trap them. Introduce a small pile of compost into your garden for a few days. The pill bugs will be drawn to it and will start feasting. After about a week, gather the compost, along with the bugs, and relocate them to a spot away from your garden, preferably into a compost bin.

  1. Shield Your Plants

If pill bugs are turning your young vegetable plants into a buffet, here’s a simple solution. Grab some old toilet paper or paper towel rolls and carefully position them over the seedlings for protection. Alternatively, a paper cup with the bottom cut out can serve the purpose, especially if you need a wider diameter.

  1. Set Up a Beer Ambush

Deal with those unwelcome pill bugs by creating a clever trap using beer or cornmeal. Follow these steps:

  1. Dig a small hole in your garden.
  2. Insert a plastic container with the lid’s lip level with the earth.
  3. Pour a small amount of beer into the container. The scent will lure the pill bugs, leading them to fall in and meet their watery end.

An alternative method involves cutting a hole in the plastic container, placing it on the ground in your garden, and filling it with cornmeal. When the pill bugs attempt to feast on the cornmeal, it becomes a recipe for their unfortunate demise.

  1. Get Professional Help

If you’ve exhausted your efforts with the DIY approaches and those pesky pill bugs persist, it might be time to bring in the experts. A pest control professional can implement the necessary measures to effectively manage the pill bug population in your garden or home.

How to Prevent Pill Bugs from Invading Your Home or Garden

  1. Clear Away Debris

Pill bugs have a soft spot for plant debris, so maintaining a neat garden is your first line of defense. Regularly clear dead leaves, fallen vegetables, and excessive mulch from the garden floor. Ensure there’s no pileup of leaves, dead grass, or wood against your home’s foundation, as this creates a damp environment pill bugs thrive in. If you stumble upon these critters, consider relocating them to your compost bin instead of squashing them.

  1. Seal Entry Points

Conduct a thorough inspection around basement windows and door thresholds for any gaps. Utilize weather stripping or caulk to seal these openings. Check the foundation for cracks that could be acting as gateways for pill bugs, and seal them with an epoxy sealer.

  1. Grow Strong Plants

To safeguard your plants from pill bugs and other pests, cultivating a thriving garden is a top-notch strategy. Enhance the soil with organic matter and ensure proper watering to foster robust root structures. Plants with sturdy cell walls are less tempting to bugs. Moreover, a soil rich in organic content provides pill bugs with alternative nourishment, reducing the likelihood of them munching on your plants.

  1. Maintain Gutters

Address drainage issues that direct rainwater toward your foundation. Regularly clean or repair gutters and downspouts to prevent water-related problems. Engaging a local gutter cleaning company can assist in this endeavor.

  1. Regrade Your Lawn

Ensure that the soil around your home slopes away from the foundation to prevent water accumulation. If grading is a concern, address it promptly to not only eradicate your pill bug predicament but also to avert potential foundation damage. Seek assistance from a nearby landscape grading company for a professional solution.

What are Rolly Polly Bugs (Pillbugs) and Sowbugs?

Ever wondered about Rolly Polly Bugs (Pillbugs) and Sowbugs? Well, here’s an interesting twist—they’re not your typical insects. As mentioned earlier, these creatures belong to the world of terrestrial crustaceans, sharing more in common with crabs and shrimps than the insects you’d typically find in the soil.

While most crustaceans are aquatic, Rolly Pollys and Sowbugs have made a home on dry land. Despite having gills, they’ve mastered the art of thriving without a drop of water. These remarkable beings play a crucial role in the ecosystem by dining on decaying plant matter and other decomposing materials, enhancing soil quality in the process.

However, their helpful nature takes a turn when their numbers grow. In large quantities, they can become a nuisance, feasting on new roots, lower leaves, seedlings, and even your prized fruits and vegetables.


  • What is the preferred diet of rolly-pollies?

Rolly-polly bugs have a liking for dead or decaying plant matter, with a particular fondness for soft plants like grasses and leaves. They might also indulge in mulch from time to time.

  • Can rolly-pollies bite?

Rest easy – neither pillbugs nor sowbugs possess mouthparts capable of biting flesh. In the world of creatures often deemed pests, they stand out as some of the most innocuous and harmless.

  • How long do rolly pollies live?

Rolly pollies, also known as pill bugs or sow bugs, typically have a lifespan of around two to three years. However, this duration can be influenced by various factors such as environmental conditions.

  • How many legs does a rolly-polly have?

Like other bugs with many legs, Rolly pollies also possess 14 legs. Unlike insects, they are classified as crustaceans and belong to the isopod group.

  • Are rolly pollies dangerous?

Rolly pollies pose no danger to humans or pets. They lack venom and are not a threat. In fact, they play a beneficial role in gardens by consuming decaying plant material and contributing to nutrient cycling.

  • Do rolly pollies eat plants?

Rolly pollies primarily feed on decomposing organic matter, such as dead plants and leaves. While they may occasionally nibble on young, tender plant shoots, they are generally not considered a significant threat to living plants.

  • Bugs that look like rolly pollies

Creatures resembling rolly pollies include woodlice, pill millipedes, and certain types of beetle larvae. Identifying these bugs accurately requires attention to specific characteristics and behavior.

  • How to manage rolly pollies in the garden?

Though generally harmless, if rolly pollies become excessively numerous and start causing damage to young plants, consider the following methods to control their population:

  • Reduce moisture in the garden, as they thrive in damp environments.
  • Remove decaying plant material to eliminate their food source.
  • Apply natural repellents like diatomaceous earth or copper barriers.
  • Use insecticides labeled for sow bugs, but resort to this only if absolutely necessary, as it’s generally not recommended.
  • What is the Difference between a Rolly Polly (Pill Bug) and a Sowbug?

Distinguishing between a Rolly Polly (Pill Bug) and a Sowbug might seem tricky at first, as they share a resemblance. However, a closer look reveals differences. Sowbugs are slightly smaller than pill bugs and sport two small structures resembling tails at their rear, a feature absent in pill bugs.

Unlike pill bugs, sowbugs cannot roll into a ball (conglobate). It’s possible to encounter one or both of these critters, given their similar preferences in diet and behavior. That’s why both are covered in the same guide to ensure we cover all bases.

Dealing with pest control issues? Look no further. At Take Care Termite and Pest Control, we understand the challenges, and we’re here to help. Our dedicated team of professionals specializes in residential pest control in Tracy, CA, providing effective solutions to keep all types of infestations at bay.

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