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Apr 15, 2009 01:15 PM

Getting rid of roly-poly's(or pill bugs)?

How do I get rid of these pests? They aren't a huge army but they are all spread out over my garden. They like to hide under my strawberry leaves and my beans have all been eaten to nubs! So far they've left my tomatoes alone and my strawberries don't look eaten for the most part. I've looked around and it seems 50% of people think they are to blame and 50% think slugs are. I've tried putting beer out but that only caught a few of them. Anyone have a fail proof method? Am I looking at the right culprit??

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  1. This happened to me last year and they multiplied in all of my planters. I have a terrace with large planters and these critters were in all of them. Upon close inspection, I also found tiny shells that appeared to be snails (hundreds of them) in the dirt and attached to the sides of the planters, which freaked me out. I couldn't believe they made their way onto a terrace, but they did. I ended up buying organic slug pellets that I sprinkled in each planter. I think it was a sodium-based product. Be careful to buy non-toxic stuff, because some of it can be really scary. It ended up getting rid of most of the roly polys as well as the shells (that I am sure were going to grow into full-blown slugs). I took the bugs to a nursery and they said they were harmless, but my plants (verbena and annual flowers) were definitely munched. This year, I am growing as much as possible from seed. I am sure these pests came in with the soil of purchased plants. I think the beer trick only works when you have grown slugs roaming around. And slugs will definitely eat their way through your garden.

    1. I don't think these guys are to blame they like to eat stuff that's in the process or rotting----it could be slugs, but the beer should have worked. What are you doing to protect against rabbits?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Sally599

        We actually don't have rabbits around, or at least I haven't seen any since moving to this new house(had tons at our old house!). I'll try the beer again, just to be sure it's not slugs.

        1. re: baloney

          We have rabbits even in the heart of Chicago, I can't imagine that you wouldn't have them but squirrels can also be an issue especially in early spring. I've even had starlings (birds) pull up young sprouts, lots of things are hungry this time of year. Most of the insect damage I've seen involves holes in the leaves etc while animal damage is often more severe like getting chopped off at ground level. My mom thought she had cutworms until she actually saw a squirrel chew off the bottom of a sunflower to knock it over and get the seeds.

      2. Are you looking at the right culprit? Short answer, no.
        Pill bugs eat only decaying plant matter. As a matter of fact, they are an important part of any good compost pile!
        Since the damage is primarily to your beans, I suspect bean beetles. You probably won't see them during most daylight hours. But if you get out to the garden in the early morning, you'll likely find them on the UNDERSIDES of your bean leaves. There are a couple of different bean beetles, but I'll guess that they are Mexican bean beetles. They kind of look like a ladybug gone bad! More rounded, more coppery/orange, head isn't black. Here's a link to a photo:
        This would explain why your strawberries and tomatoes are not being eaten---these guys pretty well stick to beans.
        Hand picking works if you have a relatively small area planted with beans (pick not only the adults, but any bright yellow egg clusters you see), or you could use an insecticidal soap (several organic brands are available, if that's important to you). Either way, remember to treat the UNDERSIDES of the leaves, since that's where you're most likely to find them.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Anne

          See? Getting the two sides of the discussion here also: pill bugs DO eat seedlings, NO they DON'T! :P But thanks for the advice, I will have to check for that bug. I have seen lots of lady bugs in our backyard and perhaps have seen different colored ones but I probably didn't pay much attention as I didn't know a bean beetle existed!

            1. re: Zeldog

              But the damage to my beans is significant, like they are dead now.

              I checked the underside of the last leaf chewed off today, saw a couple of tiny dark spots that turned out to be some sort of insect. Couldn't tell what it was but it was moving. Anyway I still don't know if they or something else is eating my bean seedlings. Hmmph. :(

              1. re: baloney

                A picture would help---can you find it in the following guide?


                1. re: Sally599

                  Gah! I totally didn't think to take a picture. And now I can't as the leaf is totally gone and I've just got a miserable dead stalk. Also, did not see the offender in the link but maybe I'm looking at the wrong thing.

                  I threw in another bean a week or two ago and is just sprouting so I'll report back and see if the problems continue. Will definitely take a pic this time around.

          1. re: Anne

            I have pillbugs in my garden - they do not eat my veggies. Maybe they are carnivores.

            1. re: Anne

              Are you looking at the right culprit? Short answer, YES!!! Although rollie pollies primarily eat dead and decaying matter, they will also eat live plants, primarily young seedlings,, I have caught them in the act! I seeded and reseeded and reseeded cucumber, watermelon, and cantaloup several times before I found the culprit. The seedling would come up and look fine, the next day it would look sick, the next day it would be laying on the ground. I checked these early in the morning, moved the mulch away from the plant, and seen where they had eaten the stem and dug in around the base of the plant. Dia earth,,, good bye rollie pollies,,,, hello new healthy seedlings!!!

              1. re: Anne

                They eat green plants also.I have watched them do it.Mostly sprouts.They will eat beans,pepper plants and melon plants. They hide under things in the daytime and come out at night. They will travel a considerable distance(for their size)to get to your plants.

              2. Beg to differ but sow bugs can eat seedlings. They are little threat to mature plants but can damage the little guys significantly. However sorting out whether they or slugs or snails are the worst offenders is difficult. Trapping them with rolls of damp newspaper is a technique that works for all of the above. Simply roll up the paper and dampen, then put in the garden overnight. Check the center the next morning. It should harvest a significant number of these moisture loving pests.

                1. I don't think your problem is sow bugs now. They don't eat entire leaves. Cutworms, maybe and you would be lucky to see them. Try a physical barrier like a paper cup with the bottom out around the bean plant when it sprouts.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: EdwardAdams

                    Thank You (stemwinder) for this.. whoever says pill bugs don't harm anything..have not been out
                    and watched them with a flashlight. Maybe they used to be harmless, but now they are going for the green! I have tried Diatomaceous Earth, and it works for a while, then they come again. Cayenne pepper seems to run them off. This is really frustrating! Earier today before dark, I looked at one of my pepper plants that was still standing, uneaten... At 11:30 pm, I went out after I had sprinkled DE on it..but the darn thing is nearly gone..pill bugs all over the stem. No sign of any other bugs or slugs.. I think it must have something to do with the soil we all use, or whatever compost or mulch.