How to get rid of pill bugs? If these critters are feeding on live plants in your garden or invading your house, it is high time to take the following measures.
1. WORX WG505 3-in-1 Blower/Mulcher/Vacuum
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2. Monterey LG6570 Sluggo Plus Slug Killer
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3. Ortho Home Defense Insect Killer for Indoor & Perimeter
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These little creatures can be a sheer amusement and a nice toy for your kids. When threatened, they roll up into a ball and are fun to play with. More importantly, pill bugs, scientifically known as Armadillidium vulgare, are unique as they are the only crustaceans that dwell on the land. They still prefer moist environments to live in but, unlike other crustaceans, will die if submerged in water. These bugs are a sort of mild natural dehumidifier, acting like a sponge that absorbs moisture from the air. And yes, they are beneficial. Pill bugs can make your garden healthier because of their ability to absorb heavy metal ions from the soil. They can live in contaminated soil and feed on decaying organic materials like leaf litter. So why should you get rid of pill bugs if they are so beneficial?
Normally, pill bugs are not a problem for homeowners. It is when their populations dramatically increase in numbers that they may cause some damage. At some point, there will not be enough decaying material for them to eat and they will turn to your garden and consume your live plants. Another problem associated with pill bugs is that they can be nuisance pest invading your house. Again, this happens only when they significantly grow in numbers.
There are few things you can do to keep pill bugs away from your garden, ranging from preventive measures to insecticidal control.
We recommend the WORX WG505 3-in-1 Blower/Mulcher/Vacuum that combines three functions in one device. What is particularly good about this product is that you can easily switch between vacuuming, blowing, and mulching, without the need to stop and change parts of the tool. The vacuum will suck up to 14 gallons of leaves per minute while the impeller will mulch them at a ratio of 16:1. The blower is adjustable and can operate at a speed of up to 210 mph. With a weight of 9.5 pounds, the WORX WG505 is designed so that you can easily carry it with one hand.
Generally, insecticides are not recommended for pill bug control. But if you have a lot of them in the garden, here are some options suggested by scientists. Entomologist Michael Merchant from Texas AgriLife Extension Service claims that permethrin-based products are more effective than insecticides containing acephate or carbaryl. Since permethrin belongs to the pyrethroid family, other chemicals from this group, like cyfluthrin and lambda-cyhalothrin, can also be used.
The Control Solutions Inc 82004505 Permethrin SFR Termiticide/Insecticide is a potent solution labeled for a broad range of pests including pill bugs. Based on 36.8% permethrin, the concentrate provides a quick knockdown effect with a residue lasting up to three months. It should be applied outdoors, including areas around the house and ornamentals. Mix it with water at concentrations indicated on the label and use a spray bottle for application. Numerous buyers say that the product does kill pill bugs and is really powerful.
Meanwhile, scientists from the University of Idaho hold a different view. They advise using insecticide baits when feeding damage is severe, instead of treating plants with pesticides. Available in pellets and flakes, baits should be distributed on the soil surface around but not touching the plants. They kill only upon digestion, which is why this approach is considered to be more eco-friendly and safer for beneficial insects like bees. The experts recommend six proven insecticides, which are intended to kill not only pill bugs but also sowbugs, snails, and slugs.
According to the researchers, the safest option on the list is the Monterey LG6570 Sluggo Plus Slug Killer. Unlike other baits based on carbaryl, this product can be safely applied on the soil around almost all plants and vegetables, including broccoli, asparagus, cucumber, melon, peas, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, and many more. The only exceptions are kale, kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage, collards, and celery. The insecticide is also used to get rid of pill bugs in potted plants.
The product’s active ingredients are spinosad and iron phosphate. While the latter kills slugs and snails, spinosad is effective against pill bugs as well. This is a registered pesticide containing a substance produced by soil-dwelling bacteria. While being natural, it is lethal to many insects. When consumed, spinosad disrupts their nervous system, causing paralysis and death within two days. This 2.5-pound container treats up to 5,000 square feet and remains effective for up to a month.
The HARRIS Diatomaceous Earth offers a whopping 5 pounds of diatomaceous earth for about $17. The product is free of any fillers or additives and is OMRI listed. It includes a duster with an extension nozzle that will allow you to spread the insecticide more thoroughly and efficiently. The HARRIS Diatomaceous Earth is food-grade and made in the USA. The package reseals, which is important as the powder must be kept dry to be effective.
Although they do not harm people or cause damage to furniture or foods, pill bugs invading your home might be a nuisance. The first thing you should understand is that these creatures can survive only in humid indoor environments. That is why they are seen mainly in bathrooms and damp basements. Here is what you can do to keep them away from your house.
For example, the Ortho Home Defense Insect Killer for Indoor & Perimeter provides long-lasting control and is effective against a wide range of pests. The insecticide is based on two active ingredients, bifenthrin and zeta-cypermethrin, that kill insects by contact. These chemicals act on the insect’s central nervous system, eventually immobilizing it. Use the product to create a bug barrier that will keep pests away for up to one year. The 1.1-gallon solution comes with a reusable wand for easy application.
Most scientists claim that insecticides should not be applied indoors unless there is a severe infestation. Michael F. Potter, entomologist from the University of Kentucky says that there is no sense in treating baseboards and other areas inside the house with insecticides because pill bugs typically die quickly indoors from dehydration. The only condition for their survival in your house is to find places with enough moisture. Meanwhile, when dealing with large amounts of these creatures, outdoor insecticide treatment may be of help. In this case, Dr. Potter suggests spraying the bottom of doors, around vents and crawl space entry points, and along walls to prevent bugs from getting inside the building.
His colleague, entomologist Phillip E. Sloderbeck from Kansas State University mentions carbaryl, bifenthrin, cypermethrin, deltamethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, and permethrin as ingredients recommended for pill bug control. He notes that spraying directly on bugs is likely to provide an immediate knockdown effect but is not effective in the long run.
Instead, he recommends treating cracks and wall voids with insecticides, focusing on dark and damp spaces. Spray steps and porches as well as sidewalks and areas around dense vegetation to eliminate them outside the house. The bug barrier around the house should be 5 to 10 feet wide. Make sure you apply insecticides thoroughly and directly to the soil. If there are boards, mulch, or leaf litter, remove them before treatment.
Jennifer Sternberg, Staff Scientist, Flinn Scientific
Jennifer Sternberg is a staff scientist at Flinn Scientific, which is a leading supplier of scientific equipment in the educational market. In this video, Jennifer explains why pill bugs not always prefer dark places.
A classic animal behavior lab investigates whether pill bugs exhibit positive or negative phototaxis. Basically, whether they move towards or away from light. Pill bugs should exhibit negative phototaxis, meaning they move away from light. But sometimes these arthropods move toward the light. Why do they do this and how can you explain this atypical behavior? Well, there are two possible explanations. The first is that pill bugs have a hierarchy of behaviors. Positive hydrotaxis that is moving toward water will outrank phototaxis. So if the overall environment is too dry, these critters will move toward a moist area, whether it is light or dark. The second explanation involves a viral infection (do not worry, they are still safe to use). There is a bird virus that uses these little creatures as a vector or, in other words, as a means to an end. Pill bugs may acquire the virus when they travel through infected bird waste. The virus then alters the pill bugs’ behavior, causing them to move toward the light. When an unsuspecting bird consumes an infected pill bug, the cycle is complete and the virus is back inside the preferred host.