The pill bug, which is also known by names like roly poly, potato bug, wood lice, armadillo bug, chiggy wig, sow bug, isopod or doodle bug, is not really an insect, but is actually more closely related to shrimp, lobster and crayfish.
Like their cousins, pill bugs have gills meant to live in moist, non-humid areas, such as underneath rocks, boards, logs and leaves. Although their gills will not survive in submerged water, they still need moisture in the soils where they live, otherwise they dry out and die.
An occasional trespasser into homes, the pill bug is not much of a pest. As a matter of fact, they are good for gardens because they help to produce compost, overturn the soil and cultivate plants. If a pill bug does happen to find its way inside your home, place it back outside in moist soil where it can benefit you the most.
Pill bugs do not spread diseases or damage wood or other objects. They are peaceful and help the environment by dieting on decaying plants, dead vegetation, algae, moss and bark. Another well-known fact is that pill bugs do not bite and are safe to pick up.
Pill bugs are known for their ability to roll up into a ball, which is called conglobation. This is a defense mechanism they use when attacked or disturbed by predators. It also protects their delicate, exposed bellies.
Healthy pill bugs can differ in appearance from sick ones by their colors. Healthy bugs contain their natural colors of black and gray, whereas sick ones become bright blue or purple. Most of the time this sickness is caused by contracting a viral infection.
Addie T. Lindsay, 16, is an accomplished writer and photographer of wildlife creatures big and small. She can be contacted at CritterChatter@live.com.