Inspecting a Sow Bug Infestation

Pill bug and sow bugs are not bugs at all. They are a kind of woodlice, which are known as isopod crustaceans. However, pill bugs and sow bugs are not the same.

Sow bugs can’t roll into a ball to protect themselves and have to depend on their tough exoskeleton to create a barrier between their predators and soft interior. Pill bugs, on the other hand, can fold themselves up when they feel threatened.

Both sowbugs and pillbugs have ridged, plated and a hard exoskeleton. The shell of pill bugs is U-shaped and edges are rounded. This makes it easier for them to fold themselves up.

Sow bugs are wingless, gray in colour and jointed antennae, seven pairs of legs, and small round heads. Their body segments have flat, pointed ends. Sow bugs and pill bugs live in moist dark areas. Don’t be surprised to see them feeding on decaying organic debris. They may also eat young plants.

Signs of a Sow Bug Infestation

Sow bugs may become pests around and in homes where leaf litter, trash, damp ground, grass clippings, flower bed mulches, potted plants, pet droppings, rotting boards and rocks are present. Sufficient moisture is needed for their survival.

Their life cycle is an imperfect metamorphosis. When they hatch from eggs, they look like a small version of their adult form. They shed their skin a number of times as they grow. Sow bugs normally live for 2 years. Pill bugs can live for about 2 years as well, sometimes even longer.

Small mammals, centipedes, and spiders are common predators for pill bugs and sow bugs. Some sow bugs can produce a chemical with an unpleasant taste and odour to put off predators.

Are They Harmful?

Pill bugs and sow bugs don’t sting, pinch or bite or eat wood. If you see pill bugs or sow bugs inside your home, it means your yard or garden offers the perfect habitat and food for them and they’ve unintentionally wandered indoors.

There might also be decomposing material near your home. Sow bugs and pill bugs are not much of a problem as they will promptly die indoors because there’s not enough moisture inside your house. They thrive in damp areas and if you see a large number of them indoors, it could mean bigger problems than just a sow bug or pill bug infestation. 

How to Deter Sow Bugs

  • Doing preventative maintenance can help reduce the possibility of sow bugs and pill bugs entering your home. Fix leaky pipes and caulk doors and windows.
  • Make sure your home’s foundation is not covered with rotting plants. Don’t forget to leave a 5" barrier around your home’s foundation where there are no shady bushes, garden mulch or dead leaves.
  • If an infestation has already occurred, you have to de-humidify your house and get rid of any pile of damp, organic materials that pill bugs or sow bugs might be feeding and nesting on.
  • These pests usually live in damp newspapers, leaves, or boxes inside of the garage or basement. By cleaning your home and reducing this kind of clutter, you can prevent pill bugs and sow bugs from entering your house once more.
  • Exterior doors should be closed tightly. Replace door sweeps and weather stripping that are damaged or missing. The entrance of crawl spaces should have doors to keep pill bugs and sow bugs out.
  • Make sure the crawlspace vents are open to allow proper ventilation. Those who live in brick houses may insert plastic screening in weep holes to deny these pests entry.
  • Waterproofing might also help get rid of humidity on basement walls. Ask the specialists at home stores about what products they can recommend. A dehumidifier may also help reduce humidity in damp basements.

If you can’t eliminate them no matter what you do, it’s best that you hire a pest control professional.