Facts, Identification & Control
Despite their name, sowbugs, sometimes called a woodlouse, are not really bugs. They are land-living crustaceans. There are two common species in the U.S., Porcellio laevis and P. scaber.
Sowbugs are flat, oval creatures. They are about 1 cm long. Their body has several segments. They have seven pair of legs and two pair of antennae. Another crustacean, the pillbug, resembles the sowbug. Sowbugs cannot roll up when they are disturbed like pillbugs do. Sowbugs have two appendages that look like tails. Pillbugs do not have the appendages.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Sowbugs are not able to retain water in their bodies, so they spend most of their time in damp places. Outdoors they hide under logs, rocks, flowerpots and trash cans. Sowbugs eat organic debris and decaying plants, so it is common to find them under mulch in flowerbeds. To conserve moisture, they are usually active at night.
Sowbugs usually come into homes through ground-level doors and windows. Sliding glass doors seem to be a favorite entrance for them. Homeowners often find sowbugs in basements and other places that have a damp, humid environment. Sowbugs wander to all parts of the home. They also invade garages and storage buildings. Since many areas in a home are too dry for sowbugs, they usually die after they come indoors.
The best way to prevent sowbugs is eliminating their hiding places. If there are no damp harborages, the sowbugs will leave or die. There are several things that homeowners can do:
Stack firewood off of the ground and move it away from the house. Move logs, boards and stones that sowbugs could use as hiding places. Move piles of dead leaves and grass clippings. Check downspouts to be sure they drain away from the foundation.
Pull mulch in flowerbeds away from the foundation. Create a zone next to the home that is free of mulch and leaves. The zone should be 15 to 30 cm wide. This will discourage sowbugs and other pests from nesting. It may be necessary to trim limbs of trees or shrubs if they cause a damp shady environment near the foundation.
Make sure exterior doors close tightly. Replace weather stripping and door sweeps that are missing or damaged. Make sure there is a door on the crawl space entrance to keep sowbugs out. Check crawlspace vents to be sure they are open to allow ventilation. Sometimes people who live in brick homes insert small squares of plastic screening into weep holes to block sowbugs from entering the home.
Waterproofing might help eliminate dampness on basement walls. Check with the specialists at the home store to see what products they recommend. Sometimes a dehumidifier will help reduce the dampness in a basement.
How Orkin Treats for Sowbugs
Sowbugs are Arthropods found in moist places such as piles of logs, leaf litter and under boards or other debris that lies flat on the ground. While sowbugs normally live outdoors, they will come inside and show up in damp environments such as a basement or crawl space. When sowbugs invade the interior of a home, you should contact your pest management professional who can provide an inspection and create a sowbug treatment plan.
The inspection will locate outdoor sites that need treatment and determine how sowbugs are gaining access inside the home. The sowbug treatment plan will emphasize non-chemical treatment measures since reducing their outside habitat and excluding them from getting inside are the most important elements of the treatment plan.
The treatment plan will focus on eliminating suitable habitats and removing excessive leaf litter, mulch, lumber, rocks and similar materials that favor moisture conditions. Also, the treatment plan may include recommendations to reduce moisture and humidity in basements and crawlspaces. In addition, treatments may include sealing cracks, gaps or holes and making sure doors and windows fit tightly, to help prevent sowbugs from entering the house.
Sometimes chemical control will be needed to augment the non-chemical treatment techniques. When necessary, your pest management professional may also apply chemical products to foundation walls, crawlspaces and locations where sowbugs are able to enter the structure. If sowbug populations are heavy in mulched areas, your pest management professional may recommend that mulch be raked back to expose the sowbugs and a chemical product then be applied to the mulched area. Normally, chemical products are not needed indoors since sowbugs will die in the drier conditions of a home or they may be removed with a vacuum or broom.
More information on sow bugs: