Pillbugs are known by many names, including wood louse, roly poly, potato bug, and armadillo bug. Whatever you call it, the pillbug is a fascinating insect â€“ which is not even really an insect! Below you’ll find 5 fun facts about the pillbug that will make you have more respect for this little creature.
1. Pillbugs Aren’t Actually Bugs
Did you know that pillbugs â€“ or roly polies as you might call them â€“ aren’t actually bugs? It’s true â€“ they are actually crustaceans, not insects! This makes them related to crayfish and shrimp â€“ more so, in fact, than they are related to any insect! In fact, pillbugs are cousins to the giant isopod, a deep sea dweller that feeds at the bottom of the ocean. Isopods even roll up to protect themselves the way their smaller terrestrial counterparts do â€“ who would have ever guessed?
2. Pillbugs Breathe Through Gills
Terrestrial pillbugs breathe through gills, just like their marine counterparts. Their gill-like structures enable them to exchange gases, which mean they require a moist environment to dwell in. However, they can NOT survive being fully submerged in water.
3. Pillbugs Don’t Urinate
Pillbugs have an amazing ability to tolerate ammonia gas, which means they have no need to convert their wastes, which are high in ammonia, into urine. The ammonia gas simply passes through their exoskeleton, entirely eliminating the need for these critters to urinate.
4. Pillbugs Can Drink From Their Anus
Pillbugs have the ability to drink the old fashioned way, using their mouthparts, but they can also use their anus to take in water. Their rears contain special tube-shaped structures called uropods, which have the ability to wick up water whenever it’s needed.
5. Pillbugs Eat Their Own Feces
A pillbug’s diet consists of lots of feces â€“ including its own. You see, when a pillbug poops, it loses a little bit of copper, which is an essential element it needs in order to live. Rather than let all that copper go to waste, the pillbug recycles it by ingesting its own poop. This ecological method is known as coprophagy.
As you can see, this little bug â€“ or crustacean, if you will! â€“ is a unique and interesting creature. Not only does it curl up in a ball when it feels threatened, but it’s larger marine cousin, the isopod, also does this. It makes one marvel at the wonders of evolution, that this critter crawled up from the depth of the cold sea to dwell on land, shrinking to the size of a pill in the process. The pillbug is definitely an intriguing creature!
About the author: Chris is writer for Fox Pest Control, a Virginia Beach based pest control company.