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Controlling pill bugs

 
Chris Dean
Posts: 108
Location: South New Mexico Mountains
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Discussion on another forum about raised hugel beds reminded me of my pill bug problem from last year. Looking online there isn't much help, and many people seem to not believe that pillbugs feed on live plants, only dead matter--I can assure you this is NOT true!

My raised hugelbed would always have its sprouts and seedlings eaten by pill bugs last year--all of them. My emergency solution was Sluggo Plus, but naturally I would like to not rely on that for long. This year I plan to add more habitat for lizards and frogs throughout my beds.

Does anyone have any experience with pill bug control? Traditional remedies? Ideas?
 
C.J. Murray
Posts: 92
Location: 5,500 ft. desert. 13" annual precip.
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Both of the web pages below show an easy way to attract pill bugs for mass reduction in numbers. We all have our weaknesses...even pill bugs.

http://wwwrockrose.blogspot.com/2011/03/getting-rid-of-pill-bugs.html

http://shovelreadygarden.blogspot.com/2009/07/possums-and-leafminers-and-pill-bugs-oh.html
 
Julie Helms
Posts: 110
Location: SC Pennsylvania, Zone 6b
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Thanks for the links CJ. I have never seen such a mob of pill bugs! I'm thinking you just scoop up that pile under the orange peel and voila! perfect protein for the chickens. So convert your roly polies into eggs!
 
Chris Dean
Posts: 108
Location: South New Mexico Mountains
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Awesome CJ, just what I was looking for! Much thanks.

@Julie--good idea feeding them to chickens. Too bad you can't just send them in to harvest their own meal.
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
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don't pill bugs have tons of predators? Maybe the issue is lack of scorpions...
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3356
Location: woodland, washington
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velacreations Hatfield wrote:don't pill bugs have tons of predators? Maybe the issue is lack of scorpions...

that's my feeling, too. my guess is that it would be a short term problem, that predators would show up before long to take care of the pill bug plague. the sluggo and solutions that C.J. linked to might slow down or entirely prevent an eventual balance, or they might be a good way for your beds to survive until an acceptable balance is achieved. hard to say without setting up a sort of clinical trial that you may not have the time, space, or energy for.

I would suggest that, at the very least, you look into the habitat requirements for local pill bug predators to see if you might easily accommodate them with some easy changes in your garden. I'm not familiar with Texas, and pill bugs have never been a problem for me so I don't have any more specific advice than that.
 
C.J. Murray
Posts: 92
Location: 5,500 ft. desert. 13" annual precip.
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Found here:

http://www.ghorganics.com/page9.html#Sow

“There is a spider about one-half inch long with a brown rear body and a reddish front body. It has prominent fangs, long front legs, and is timid as it usually runs for cover when disturbed or seen. It doesn't have a common name but they are everywhere and harmless to people. The scientific name is Dysdera crocata. This little fellow feeds almost exclusively on pill bugs. They live under objects on the ground like stones etc. where pill bugs live. The long fangs" are used for feeding on the pill bugs not you!”

A picture of Dysdera crocata here:

http://www.critterzone.com/animal-pictures-nature/arachnid-spider-woodlouse-Dysdera-crocata.htm

That spider is almost as disturbing as a scorpion…
 
Julie Helms
Posts: 110
Location: SC Pennsylvania, Zone 6b
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CJ...how fascinating and really quite gross looking! Lol!

 
Chris Dean
Posts: 108
Location: South New Mexico Mountains
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Don't think the problem is not enough scorpions...in the summer we find about 3 per day in our house
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
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hozomeen Hatfield wrote:Don't think the problem is not enough scorpions...in the summer we find about 3 per day in our house
but are they where the pill bugs are?
 
Chris Dean
Posts: 108
Location: South New Mexico Mountains
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velacreations Hatfield wrote:
hozomeen Hatfield wrote:Don't think the problem is not enough scorpions...in the summer we find about 3 per day in our house
but are they where the pill bugs are?


They are--anytime I pick up anything in the garden--pieces of wood, tools--I usually find at least one scorpion.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
Posts: 1253
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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forest garden hugelkultur
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If you can't beat them, EAT THEM!

Eating pill bugs
 
Christine Baker
Posts: 62
Location: NW Arizona - high desert Joshua Tree forest
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Just want to say THANKS for the orange tip. I've gotten rid of thousands of pill bugs in my hoophouse and greenhouse and with a little luck will hopefully soon be able to plant my tomatoes.

For a month I've been battling the pill bugs. They didn't bother my lettuce seedlings at all, but then attacked a tomatillo volunteer that was a foot tall and flowering and they devoured at least 12 about 6" tall tomato seedlings.

Sure wish I had chickens to feed them to. Been dumping them into a bucket with a little water and then empty the bucket outside after they drowned. I'm surprised that the quail don't eat them.
 
Morgan Morrigan
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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there are some copper collars you can put around em to keep snails out , think i saw em at Gardeners Supply. They are for snails, but may work with lobsters too.

Have to remove once the plant is going well, copper kills roots.....
 
Christine Baker
Posts: 62
Location: NW Arizona - high desert Joshua Tree forest
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I had considered putting a PVC pipe or empty aluminum can around the seedlings, but then I thought that I would create a dark moist space around the stem -- the perfect pill bug habitat.

Has anyone tried it?



 
Dave Hartman
Posts: 51
Location: Off grid in the central Rockies of Montana (at 6300') zone 3-4ish
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I have used a plastic drinking straw cut to size with a slit cut down the side to wrap around young seedling transplants. It works well and once the plant grows you can remove.
 
Christine Baker
Posts: 62
Location: NW Arizona - high desert Joshua Tree forest
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Now that is an excellent idea! I even have the straws and only the tiniest pill bugs would fit inside.

However, I still need to get rid of a few thousand more with the oranges. They didn't just attack the stem of the tomatillo that was in full bloom, but they were all over the entire plant and it doesn't look like it'll recover.

I've made a lot of progress and actually had a few tomato seedlings in my hoophouse for 3 or so days now and only one got killed off. I'll plant a bunch more now and add the straws to all the seedlings.

Thanks!
 
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