Everyone’s Favorite Playground Pest: Pill Bugs

Everyone’s Favorite Playground Pest: Pill Bugs

Many of us have childhood memories of digging through the dirt and finding small bugs that would curl into a tiny ball once we uncovered them. These bugs, most commonly known as pill bugs, are not actually bugs at all. Pill bugs are land crustaceans (non-insect arthropods) and are closely related to lobsters, crabs, and shrimp.

Pill bugs are tiny, gray-colored insects that roll into a ball when disturbed. They are oval-shaped, usually around 8.5 to 18 mm long, and have seven pairs of legs and two antennae. Pill bugs also have a segmented, hard shell-like exterior that resembles an armadillo. Other names the pill bug goes by include roly-poly, doodle bug, and woodlice. Another species of woodlice commonly mistaken as the pill bug is the sow bug. Sow bugs are flatter than pill bugs and are unable to fully roll into a sphere.

pill bugs


Pill bugs help with the decomposition process since they feed on decaying matter. They pose no threat to humans but can cause damage to gardens or vegetation when their preferred food source is low. These critters need a damp environment to survive and are often found within rotting logs, under flower pots, or hidden within leaf piles. They are nocturnal, so they will not typically be seen feeding during the day.

On occasion, pill bugs can make their way indoors. While they won’t harm the structure of a home, their presence may call attention to unknown indoor problems like water leaks or moldy wood. Here are some tips for successfully relocating or controlling a problematic pill bug infestation indoors or outside the home.

person cleaning carpet


Since pill bugs help decompose organic matter, they’re a valuable part of your yard’s ecosystem.

These critters are accidental indoor invaders, and most die within a few days indoors if they cannot find a suitable habitat. Their survival is not reliant on human activity, but they do need a damp environment to live. Pill bugs typically get inside through door thresholds, especially sliding doors, and floor-level cracks. Basements are their favorite place to congregate if they do find themselves indoors.

If you find pill bugs indoors (no matter the number) you can use a dustpan, vacuum, or even your hand to pick them up and relocate them to a comfortable spot outdoors. Pill bugs are great for compost piles, so dump them there if you have one. If you don’t have a compost pile, deposit pill bugs in a wooded area. They will help reduce the amount of leaf debris and add nutrients back into the soil. Make sure that these piles aren’t close to the exterior of your home, however, as they could draw in unwanted pests such as cockroaches close to your home.

Have unwanted creepy crawlies inside or around your home? Give us a call and one of our team members will schedule a home inspection. We create pest control solutions specific to your home’s situation.