I think we can all remember a time when we were kids and we found these curious little creatures in a garden, under a rock or log, or strolling through blades of grass. They are often called pillbugs, woodlice or rollie pollies and they are characterized by their ability to roll up into a ball when they feel threatened.

Quick facts:

  • Rollie pollies are not insects although people refer to them as bugs. This 1/2-inch long, oval creature is actually a crustacean and is a relative of lobsters and crabs. They have a head, thorax, and abdomen but have seven pairs of legs (insects have only three pairs of legs). While they may look like something left behind from prehistoric times they are perfectly harmless. They don’t bite, sting, or carry diseases.
  • These grey-colored creatures can be found in many dark, moist environments feeding on decaying matter. They help the soil by increasing the speed of decomposition, turning the organic matter into the soil faster and ultimately aiding plant growth.
  • Rollie pollies are an important element of your soil’s natural ecosystem, helping the soil to aerate and decompose organic matter.

Rollie pollies also remove metals from the soil

The other major benefit of rollie pollies in the garden is that they are a natural way to safely remove heavy metals from the soil. They take toxins like lead, cadmium, and arsenic and crystallize them in their guts. Then, the toxins are made into spherical deposits in their midguts. Gross, right? Well, your soil certainly doesn’t think so!

Releasing thousands of pill bugs can actually clean up large areas of toxic soil safely while protecting the water table. If they can clean up such horrible byproducts of manufacturing, think what they are doing to help your garden soil. That’s an “ah ha!” moment, right? It’s pretty fascinating that such a little creature can give you clean, healthy soil. It has always been a simple to joy watching a kid hold a rollie pollie in their hand and watch it curl up into a ball. You simply can’t help but smile!!