How to Get Rid of Pill Bugs | Information and Control Guide

Pill bugs often referred to as ‘roly polly’ are not harmful to humans or home structures. However, they are known to damage the roots of plants when they are feeding. When you start seeing them indoors, it indicates a large infestation happening outdoors.

How to get rid of pill bugs? To get rid of pill bugs effectively, you have to eliminate what they love—moisture. In addition, remove piles of leaves and grass clippings around the property since they feed on these organic matters. Storing firewood away from your house can also help, as well as ventilating hidden areas of your home, such as attics, crawlspaces, and basements.

In this article, you will know more about pill bugs, such as their characteristics, the methods you can use to get rid of them, and more!

Pill Bugs Identification

Pill Bugs Identification

The pill bug is an isopod—a terrestrial crustacean. It’s usually called a roly-poly because of its ability to roll into a ball when bothered.

These tiny crustaceans are nocturnal but can be found during the day under debris or in the soil. 

These bugs are very easy to identify. Their backs comprise seven hard scales, and they have oval bodies with seven pairs of legs.

  • Scientific Name: Armadillidium vulgare (Latreille)
  • Appearance: Pill bugs are oval, sometimes slightly elongated, and about 1/2 inch long without any wings. They are slate-gray in color, and their body parts are comparable to armored plates. Also, they have three body parts: head, abdomen, and thorax, along with their seven pairs of legs.
  • Shape: Oval
  • Color: Slate-Gray
  • Lifespan: 2 years
  • Habitat: Pill bugs thrive in areas with high moisture and stay hidden under objects during the day, such as under mulch, boards, compost, stones, flower pots, and other things placed on damp ground. 
  • Size: 1/4 to 1/2 inch long
  • Diet: Rotting plant leaves and other organic decomposing materials, such as lawn clippings.
  • Characteristics: Pill bugs are nocturnal, so they are more active at night and are found resting during the day in dark, humid areas such as under logs, fallen leaves, or rocks. These crustaceans live their whole lives on land, feeding primarily on decomposing plant leaves and other rotting materials.

How Do I Get Rid of Pill Bugs on My Property?

How Do I Get Rid of Pill Bugs on My Property

There are many ways to manage and get rid of pill bugs in your house. Remember that it is always best to start with natural alternatives, like garlic spray, chili pepper oil, diatomaceous earth, etc., before diving into pesticide use.

If you find them in your house, it indicates stan standing water is present around your home since they need water to survive. To ensure getting rid of pill bugs effectively, consider doing the following:

  • Destroy the pill bug-friendly environment (you can find the steps below).
  • Use ingredients you have at home before using pesticides. 
  • Make sure to wear gloves when scooping in the dirt.
  • If you opt to use diatomaceous earth, wear a mask to prevent inhaling the powder.

Step 1: Make beer or cornmeal traps.

A beer or cornmeal trap is an easy and budget-friendly method to eradicate the roly-poly issue in your home. To do this:

  1. Dig holes close to plants using a garden spade, spoon, or trowel. 
  1. Create large holes enough to hold a rinsed-out can or plastic receptacle. 
  1. Bury and level the with the soil’s surface. 
  1. Fill the receptacle with any beer type. This will attract the pill bugs and make them fall into the beer and drown.
  1. If you don’t like to open a beer, you can make a cornmeal trap instead. 
  1. Put the cornmeal in a small sealable plastic bag or container and cut a tiny opening into the bottom edge. 
  1. Set the cornmeal trap next to the young plants. This will attract pill bugs and consume them. Pill bugs won’t be able to digest the cornmeal, causing them to die eventually. 

For either beer or cornmeal traps, set several traps based on the size of your garden. Inspect the traps every day to refill them.

Step 2: Make the environment less attractive by removing decaying plant matter or much.

Pill bugs love moisture, so you have to eliminate this environment to make your place less appealing. Furthermore, remove excessive mulch, fallen fruit and vegetables, dead plant matter, wet leaves, and rocks to discourage pill bugs from finding a habitable dwelling in your garden. 

Be careful not to overwater plants since pill bugs like moisture.

Step 3: Make sure there is sufficient air circulation around plants.

Improving the air circulation around plants helps prevent pill bugs. You can do this by elevating the pots off the ground using plant stands. 

On top of that, you can also trim plants, bushes, and trees around the house to boost air circulation. It will also help if you remove any unnecessary items near the house foundation, such as piles of wooden boards, firewood, or rocks.

Step 4: If you find pill bugs inside your home, seal off access points, reduce moisture, and clean up the outdoor space.

The most common site to spot pill bugs within a home is the basement. Since they prefer dark and damp areas, maintain a dry basement and inspect for leaking pipes or excess moisture.

You can use a dehumidifier to dry out moist areas of your home. After that, seal the foundation cracks or gaps around the doors and windows using caulk or weatherstripping to close any spots where pill bugs can enter. 

Step 5: Use food-grade diatomaceous earth.

Use food-grade diatomaceous earth to eliminate pill bugs. Food-grade DE is safe for animals and humans, so there’s no need to worry about your pets or kids. 

However, this will kill other beneficial insects in the garden, so consider this before using it. 

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a powder produced from fossilized aquatic organisms called diatoms. This powder forces insects to dry out and die when the powder touches their exoskeleton.

While the DE powder is safe to handle, it is not safe to breathe it in, so make sure to wear a mask when you use it.

Step 6: Call a pest control professional for help.

If you have tried all the given steps above but to no avail, it’s time to call in a pest control expert. A professional in pest control help take proper steps to effectively manage and eliminate pill bugs in the garden or home.

Once you’ve tried all the methods yourself but with no good result, consider consulting with an expert pest exterminator for an efficient and safe way to solve the issue.

What Is a Natural Way to Get Rid of Pill Bugs?

What Is a Natural Way to Get Rid of Pill Bugs

There are several ways to get rid of pill bugs naturally, and some of them are:

Garlic Spray

Garlic has a strong scent that pill bugs hate. You can take this to your advantage and make a garlic spray.

To make:

  1. Get a clean spray bottle.
  1. Crush at least three cloves of garlic.
  1. Put the garlic into the spray bottle and fill it in with some water.
  1. Shake the solution and spray it directly to the pill bugs.
  1. Reapply as needed.

Potato Trap

This is one of the most effective natural methods of eliminating these small crustaceans. Potatoes are food with lots of moisture and pill bugs are drawn to that.

To make the trap:

  1. Cut a potato in half and spoon away some to create hollows to each piece.
  1. After that, put the cut side down in the affected areas or soil. Leave it for at least two days before taking it out.

You may see many rolly pollies after two days beneath the potato bait. After one to two days, remove the potato with the pill bugs and dispose of them.

Neem Oil

Neem oil is mildly toxic to them. To make:

  1. Get a clean spray bottle.
  1. Add half tablespoon of neem oil and three to four drops of dish wash soap.
  1. After that, fill in the spray bottle with water, shake well and spray to the affected area.

Coffee Grounds

Although coffee grounds don’t exactly kill pill bugs, this item prevents them from coming to your property. The strong scent, grainy feel, and sticky feeling when the coffee grounds start to melt are repulsive to these tiny crustaceans.

To use: Just sprinkle a generous amount of coffee grounds around your plants or the affected sites to deter these isopods from entering your property again.

Why Is My House Infested With Pill Bugs?

The existence of pill bugs in your house is often directed towards an outdoor infestation. When the infestation is large, the population moves indoors to search for food and shelter.

Yards with extreme moisture and debris usually shelter pill bugs. Heavy downpours during early summer and spring can also push them inside.

What Kills Roly Polys?

There are several items on the market that are known to kill roly polys and they are:

Poison Baits

Since pill bugs have a tough outer shell and reside in moist places, most liquid sprays don’t work on them. Dry baits composed of food integrated with pesticides such as spinosad poison are effective in controlling roly-polys when they consume it.

Bait granules should be sprinkled on the ground around affected plants by hand or using rotary spreaders. 

Make sure to read the product label carefully to decide whether other insects or animals could be harmed by the bait. This will also ensure correct usage and efficacy.

Botanical Spray Pill Bugs Killer

Botanical sprays are available online or in garden centers for home use. These are ready-to-use oil sprays that are entirely plant-based and contain oil of sesame oil, neem oil, soybean oil, thyme, and wintergreen.

Spray your chosen botanical spray straight on any roly-polys and reapply as needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Pill Bugs Beneficial?

Pill bugs are beneficial as they serve as decomposers, breaking down rotting materials, such as leaves through consuming them and putting back the nutrients to the soil, 

Are Pill Bugs Harmful?

Pill bugs are not harmful. They don’t spoil food or circulate diseases that will harm humans.

What Do Pill Bugs Hate?

Pill bugs hate the scents of essential oils. So if you find them in your yards or within your home, you can use the following oil as sprays:

  • Cinnamon oil
  • Citronella oil
  • Citrus oil
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Pennyroyal oil
  • Oregano oil 
  • Rosemary oil
  • Tea tree oil

Are Pill Bugs Bad in My House?

Pill bugs don’t carry any diseases with them nor do they damage any home items or bite. However, they are very unsightly to look at particularly if they go inside your house, and they also damage plant roots when they’re feeding. 

What Are Pill Bugs Attracted To?

Roly-polys are drawn to decaying matter, such as food in your trash, falling leaves, mulch, and rotting vegetables.

What Habitat Do Pill Bugs Prefer?

Pill Bugs prefer to live in areas where moisture and dead plants are present. Hence, they are commonly found in forests and other moist habitats

What Eats Roly Polys?

Several critters such as spiders, birds, some wasp species, toads, millipedes, and centipedes prey on pill bugs to sustain their nutritional needs.


Although pill bugs are not harmful in any way to humans and pets, they can still become a nuisance in your garden when they start feeding. They can damage the roots of plants, leading them to die.

Your home can also become unsightly when they start to go inside your home. When this case happens, consider using the methods given in this guide or call a pest control expert to deal with the problem.

List of Sources

Pest of the Month – Pillbugs

Neem Oil