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Sowbug and Pillbug

Danger/Damage

In gardens, pillbugs and sowbugs feed on young shoots and roots. They may nibble on fruits or vegetables such as strawberries, melons, and squash. In greenhouses, large numbers of them can become troublesome.

Indoors, pillbugs and sowbugs are generally harmless. If they make their way inside the house, they quickly dry up and die.

If they become problematic in the house, controlling moisture levels by fixing leaks, insulating sweating water pipes, and using a dehumidifier, will help eliminate or limit their presence.


Did you know?

Sowbugs and pillbugs are closely related, but they are not insects. Rather, these arthropods are crustaceans, more closely related to shrimp and crayfish.

Sowbugs and pillbugs both look similar to a mini armadillo. They have oval bodies—convex above and a flat or hollow bottom. But the difference between a sowbug and a pillbug is that the pillbug can roll up into a tight ball while the sowbug cannot. Sowbugs also have two tail-like appendages that pillbugs do not.


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Sowbugs and pillbugs both look similar to a mini armadillo. They have oval bodies—convex above and a flat or hollow bottom. They are dark gray, 7-16 mm (1/4 – 5/8”) long.

They are dark grey 7-16 mm (1/4 – 5/8”) long, and each has seven pairs of legs. The difference between a sowbug and a pillbug is that the pillbug can roll up into a tight ball when disturbed. Sowbug cannot. Sowbugs also have two tail-like appendages.


Sowbugs and pillbugs need lots of moisture. Active at night, pillbugs and sowbugs live in damp places – under rocks, logs, leaves, and mulch where they feed on rotting plant matter. Moisture-seeking pillbugs and sowbugs invade structures but do no damage indoors.


The female sowbug and pillbug will produce one to three generations per year, depending on environmental conditions.

The female lays her eggs (24-28) and carries the young after hatching in a pouch called a marsupium on the underside of her body. Sowbug and pillbugs can live as long as two years.


  1. Cloudy and wet weather may contribute to sowbug and pillbug outbreaks.
  2. Found indoors in early spring as they emerge from cracks and crevices where they spent the winter.

How do you tell sowbugs and pillbugs apart?

Sowbugs cannot roll up into a tight ball as pillbugs can. They also have two tail-like appendages that pillbugs do not.

Do sowbugs and pillbugs live indoors?

Generally, sowbugs and pillbugs do not survive long inside as they dry out quickly, but they may invade damp basements as well as the first floor of buildings and greenhouses.

What do sowbugs and pillbugs eat?

Sowbugs and pillbugs feed on decaying vegetable matter.

Are sowbugs and pillbugs active in the fall and winter?

In the fall, sowbugs and pillbugs seek protected places to overwinter.

They become inactive during the winter months except in artificially heated buildings such as greenhouses.

What are the breeding habits of sowbugs and pillbugs?

The female sowbug and pillbug will produce one to three generations per year depending on environmental conditions.

The female lays her eggs (24-28) and carries the young in a pouch called a marsupium on the underside of her body.

What can I do to prevent a sowbug and pillbug infestation?

Remove all leaves, grass clippings, mulch, boards, stones, and similar objects close to the building since these may harbour sowbugs and pillbugs.

Avoid excess moisture in basements or crawlspaces and repair any cracks or openings.

Clean up spilled media and plant residues to reduce food sources.


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