Roly Poly Bug Facts

They look like something prehistoric-but on a very small scale. The armadillidiidae or roly poly bug is a member of the woodlice family, part of the crustaceans group. Roly poly bugs also are known as pill bugs and are related to both shrimp and lobsters, other crustaceans. They are not insects.

Roly poly bug characteristics

Roly poly bugs are isopods, members of the Isopoda order. Like grasshoppers, they have three sections that include a head, thorax and abdomen. Their thorax contains seven individual segments. Each segment or section features a pair of legs. When threatened, a roly poly bug can curl itself into a little ball. Its legs tuck into the body when this occurs. While roly poly bugs look like sow bugs, the sow bug cannot curl into a ball.

Mostly grayish-brown in color, roly poly bugs also can appear lighter, almost white and some even have a pattern. The little critters do have two large antennae and simple eyes, according to the Center for Insect Science Education Outreach at the University of Arizona.

Habitats of the roly poly bug

The roly poly bug craves humid environments, requiring high levels of moisture to maintain life. It favors moist locations where plant life is abundant. Ample plant material is needed by the roly poly bug because it feeds on decaying organic matter, reports Dr. Peggy K. Powell, a Pesticide Impact Extension Specialist at the West Virginia University Extension Service. Dr. Powell reveals, "Large populations often can be found in compost piles or leaf litter...To maintain their required moisture levels, they normally stay in the mulch around ornamental plantings or beneath rocks, logs or flower containers."


On occasion, a home may seen a mild invasion of roly poly bugs in crawlspace and basement areas. They are not destructive creatures and should not cause any damage to the building's structure. A roly poly bug invasion is more likely to occur after extended periods of precipitation.

From youth to adult

Roly poly bug eggs are produced by the female. The eggs hatch anywhere from three to nine weeks, typically producing several baby roly poly bugs. An adult female roly poly bug can breed two or three times annually. According to the American Orchid Society, "The young spend three to nine days in the mother's pouch, which is composed of plates on her underside." The next stage is for the young (who look similar to the adults) to leave the pouch. The young roly poly bugs will not reach adulthood until they have molted several times, usually this process takes about 12 months-about one-half of their natural life expectancy.

Roly poly bug fun facts

  • The roly poly or pill bug does not breathe through a nose. Instead, the small creature breathes through gills.
  • Young roly poly bugs are more vulnerable to predators during molting stages when they are shedding their "skin."
  • Large populations of roly poly bugs actually can damage garden plants.
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