Roly Poly Bug | Identification, Habitat, and Control

Have you seen a tiny creature that has a similar look to an armored vehicle? It’s the roly-poly bug or pill bug that is originally from the Mediterranean.

But it can be seen everywhere nowadays, especially in temperate climates. You may also wonder why it rolls into a ball with its series of hard plates.

What is a roly-poly bug? It may surprise you, but a roly poly bug is not an insect. The reality is that it’s a crustacean which means that it’s more related to shrimps and crayfish. Believe it or not, it breathes through gills located on its body’s underside even though it lives on land. This creature can absorb moisture from the air to keep itself hydrated when it’s humid.

Many are surprised to know that roly poly bugs are not insects. Aside from this information, there’s more to learn. Hence, this article is made to reveal interesting facts about this crustacean.

What Do Roly Poly Bugs Look Like?

What Do Roly Poly Bugs Look Like

The reason why roly poly bugs look like an armored vehicle is their chain of prominent plates. They generally have a blue-gray color with some yellow, prominent spotting. The seven pairs of legs that they have are all similar in size and form.

Moreover, the segments of the seemingly smaller abdomen are almost merged with two terminal appendages and uropods that stand out from the tip. You’ll see two antennae on its head, but surprisingly, one is longer than the other.

It’s funny how the shorter antenna projects downward. These crustaceans have minimal vision since they use a few ocelli in detecting light.

Life Cycle of a Roly Poly Bug

Life Cycle of a Roly Poly Bug

When the mother poly bug produces eggs, she puts them in the pocket located in her abdomen called marsupium. Around two dozen eggs are placed in the pocket at a single time.

After the hatching of eggs, the offspring stay in the pocket for six to seven weeks until they learn how to forage independently. A female roly poly bug can produce two broods every year.

When a young leaves their mother’s pocket, it goes through molting within 24 hours. You may find the molting process of these creatures unusual as it completes in just two stages.

But it’s how they maintain moisture. It only takes 2 to 3 days for the front half to shed, and the same period is needed for the back half to molt. During this stage, you’ll find them in two tones.

In addition, molting of pill bugs usually occurs within a two-week interval. The differences in their appearance between the two moltings are the lighter color and smaller size of the younger version.

The adult life of roly poly bugs is usually spent during winter. They usually find shelter under debris and boards. They become active in spring to mate. The male particularly guards the female against other males.

But females don’t always need a male to reproduce. It’s called reproducing parthenogenetically, which means giving birth to all females.

About Roly Poly

About Roly Poly

Roly poly bugs deliver benefits when they’re in their natural habitat. They have an awesome recycling ability as they get nutrients from breaking down dead plant material.

Thus, decomposition is done quickly. They feed at night and stay under the cover during the day. You’ll only see them daytime after the recent rain or when it’s cloudy.

Since they’re slow-moving crustaceans, they breathe through gills that are found on the underside of their body. Their gills are thin and membranous.

These parts need wetting, so they have to remain in areas where moisture is present. They have uropods that appear like a tail to obtain the moisture that they need. This tail allows the roly polies to absorb water through the ends of their bodies.

Roly poly bugs roll into a ball when they feel threatened. This defense mechanism makes them interesting, especially to children. It’s also the reason why they got their name.

They’re deemed as indicators of ecosystem health as they’re sensitive to changes that occur in the environment.

What Do Roly Poly Bugs Eat?

They’re categorized as scavengers as they mainly nourish themselves with moist, as well as decaying plant matter. They feed through their small mouths. 

What Do Roly Poly Bugs Eat and Drink?

There are times that they’re considered minor pests in the garden when they eat tender seedlings. They drink moisture through their uropods.

How Long Do Roly Poly Bugs Live?

Roly poly bugs can live up to 2 or 3 years.

Where Do Roly Poly Bugs Live?

Roly poly bugs live in suburban and urban areas, as well as gardens, forests, and fields. Moreover, they thrive in moisture, so they burrow in the soil and live under logs or rocks, mulch, and fallen leaves.

They dwell in places where humans reside as long as there’s no extreme heat and coldness with only some little light. Their favorite spot is the tilled soil that is too wet.

How Many Legs Does a Roly Poly Bug Have?

A roly poly bug has 14 legs.

How to Find Roly Poly Bugs?

How to Find Roly Poly Bugs

You’ll need a flashlight and jar when finding roly poly bugs. It’s an easy task to look for them in your yard. Make a trap through a piece of potato or cantaloupe with a hole.

Put this trap in the area where these creatures live. Then, you have to cover it with some leaves and wait for a few days.

You need to give some time for the roly poly bugs to get into the hole you made in the potato or cantaloupe. In due time, shake the potato inside the jar to collect the roly polies.

What Do Roly Poly Bugs Do?

What Do Roly Poly Bugs Do

A study was conducted regarding this creature’s detritivorous behavior or feeding on dead plant material in Florida’s hydric hardwood forest.

The positive impact of this activity was discovered due to the increase of mineral nutrient layers such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. There’s also a higher amount of pH and carbon, which was removed from fallen leaves.

Poly roly bugs may damage plants too, like the young and seedlings. Some people get annoyed seeing them indoors. They will likely dwell in damp crawl spaces and basements.

Also, you can find them below the sink cabinet in the bathroom and sunrooms filled with potted plants.

They may crawl into a house through basement windows and gaps indoors when the weather is warm. It happens when roly poly bugs are disturbed by overwatering their outdoor habitat.

Do Roly Poly Bugs Bite?

Roly poly bugs don’t bite or sting.

Are Roly Poly Bugs Poisonous?

Since they don’t bite, poly bugs are not poisonous to humans and pets. They also don’t negatively affect furniture, structural timber, and stored food.

How to Get Rid of Roly Poly Bugs?

You may resort to chemical control to get rid of roly poly bugs when they cause severe damage. Use granules, dust, liquid formulation, or bait. 

How to Get Rid of Poly Roly Bugs in Garden?

If a high number of poly roly bugs is a disturbance in your garden, you have to opt for a pesticide like Hi-Yield. You can also use insecticide, but it should be labeled for outdoor use. But you have to be careful that these substances won’t get into the plants that you consume.

How to Get Rid of Poly Roly Bugs in Basement?

Ventilate the basement to not tolerate the dwellings of these creatures. You can use the potato method to find and get rid of them. Use a vacuum to capture and get rid of them outside. After cleaning the basement, make sure to dry up the area. These are the first actions that you can take as you might not need to apply insecticide.

How to Get Rid of Poly Roly Bugs Naturally?

The natural options to get rid of poly roly bugs are through the utilization of diatomaceous earth and botanical insecticides from plants. They’re for outdoor use. The diatomaceous earth that you can get are Safer Ant and Crawling Insect Killer and Harris Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade.

How to Prevent Roly Poly Bugs?

1. Sealing Possible Entry

Any hole on the wall can welcome every tiny creature like roly poly bugs. So, don’t miss to seal loose-fitting doors, foundation vents, and basement windows.

2. Elimination of Natural Habitat

The increase of the poly roly bug population usually starts outside their natural habitat. Be mindful about the plant beds that are in contact with your house or building.

They stay moist most of the time because plants need water. It means that these creatures are attracted to them. 

Remove ground clutter and make the areas around your house as dry as possible. When you stock firewood, you should know that roly polies like to live in wet wood that has loose bark.

You may put the piles of wood on an elevated concrete. When you need to bring some pieces of wood inside your house, shake them first to remove roly polies and other insects.


You know that they’re roly poly bugs when they roll into a ball. But don’t be threatened by them because they appear like bugs or insects. Instead, they’re crustaceans that work as decomposers.

They don’t bite or sting at all, so they’re not harmful. You only need to remove these roly polies most of the time without the help of pesticides.

List of Sources


Homeowner Guide to Pill Bugs and Sow Bugs

Pillbug (“Roly-Poly”)

Common Name: Pillbug, Roly-Poly, Woodlouse

What About Pillbugs?