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Armadillidium vulgare

Pillbug, Armadillidium vulgare Like so many other graden critters, pillbugs have inadvertently been spread around the world along with imported plants.  They are considered a pest in greenhouses, but cause little damage in most gardens.  Here my thumb gives a size clue.

Pillbug, Armadillidium vulgare A small plastic box helps to keep active critters within camera range.  A box is also useful for close observation, as with a hand lens.  This picture clearly shows the "bands" plates which make the pillbugs exoskeleton resemble the shell of an armadillo (which gives it its scientific name).  Also notice, there are no appendages showing at the tail end of the pillbug.  There are with the sowbug.

Pillbug, Armadillidium vulgare A key characteristic distinguishing a pillbug from a sowbug, When threatened the pillbug rolls up into a tight ball.  Sowbugs are not able to roll.  This is also why pillbugs are also known as "rolly-pollies".

Pillbug, Armadillidium vulgare This pillbug, just unrolling, shows all seven pairs of legs.  It is an isopod, not an insect. Pillbugs are easy to maintain in a culture for use in lab activities.  I once found a culture of pillbugs in a coffee can which had been misplaced for a couple of months.  It had a tight lid (no air holes), and the only "food" was damp paper towels.  Yet the pillbugs seemed to be doing fine.


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