Q&A with Kareen – How do pill bugs fit into a healthy garden?

This week’s ‘Q&A with Kareen’ is all about pill bugs. I answer Karen’s question about what role pill bugs play, if any, in a healthy garden. As she explains, they tend to flourish in her greenhouse and some of her outdoor garden beds.

Pill bugs are very common in gardens and greenhouses. Because of their tendency to roll up into a ball when they feel threatened, they are also known as roly-polys. Most people think they’re insects but they’re actually one of the few terrestrial crustaceans. Pill bugs like moist shady environments which is why you’ll often find them below ground or under decaying plant material.

As I explain in the video, pill bugs help break down organic matter and help with the decomposition process. This is why you’ll often find them in the cooler parts of your compost pile. In this way, they are an important part of the soil food web. While pill bugs are usually not super destructive to gardens, if you have an overabundance of them, they can start nibbling on your young seedlings.

The key to keeping their populations in check is to be conscious of creating moist shady environments in which they thrive. In the video, I talk about how overwatering or having too much organic matter on your beds, at least initially, might contribute to them multiplying. If you do have a surplus, I’ve also found that chickens like them as a little snack. You can either collect them manually, or, you can have your chickens run through your garden beds early or late in the season.

Click on the video to hear more. Also, you’ll get a peek into my greenhouse as I recently started planting this week!