“Don’t say I didn’t warn you”…
We often see them as we dig the ground… they are the charmers of children, these animated little martian probes. Follow me on my nerdy journey (snorts) to find out a little more about these “Bakugans” of the insect realm.
The pill bug is the only crustacean ( lobsters, crabs, shrimp, and water fleas), that can spend its entire life on land, and I saw loads of them as I did my main leaf clean up in the Patch, to get it ready for the spring.
Some species of woodlouse in the genus Armadillidium are able to roll into an almost perfect sphere (hence the name pill bug) when threatened by predators, leaving only their armored back exposed. This ability, explains many of the woodlouse’s common names, names like pill bug, roly-poly, armadillo bug, cheeselog, cheesy bug, doodlebug, potato bug, sow bug, roll up bug, chuggy pig or chucky pig, slater, gramersow and wood bug.
Woodlice need moisture because they breathe through gills, that’s right folks I said gills (right knee hits chin three times then immediately locks straight for three consecutive days). This explains why you always fine them in damp dark places in the garden such as under rocks, logs and leaves. What an effective design…
Leg peeping out
They are usually nocturnal, and may venture over considerable distances during the night. On humid evenings, they can often be seen in large numbers with the help of a flashlight. They feed mostly on dead plant matter, although they have been known to feed on cultivated plants, such as ripening strawberries and tender seedlings. Woodlice then recycle the nutrients back into the soil. Pillbugs form an important component of the larger decomposer fauna, along with earthworms, snails, and millipedes. All of these animals return organic matter to the soil where it is further digested by fungi and bacteria, hence making nitrates, phosphates, and other vital nutrients available to plants. Although they may occasionally feed on roots, pillbugs do minimal damage to live vegetation and should not be regarded as pests.
Buckled over laughing…
A complete conniption!
“Man that feels better”
Picture curtesy of http://www.backyardnature.net
The woodlouse has a shell-like exoskeleton, (also called the cuticle) which it must progressively shed as it grows. The moult takes place in two stages-the back half is lost first, followed two or three days later by the front.
This photograph was taken as I freaked out as it climbed over my fingers after righting itself.
Pillbugs are also of importance in sites such as coal spoils and slag heaps, which face heavy metal contamination. They are capable of taking in heavy metals such as copper, zinc, lead and cadmium and crystallize these out as spherical deposits in the midgut. In this way, they remove many of the toxic metal ions from the soil, promoting the restoration of contaminated sites by accelerating topsoil formation. This in turn favors the establishment of plants that stabilize the soils by root formation. Stabilized soils reduce problems of toxic dusts and the leaching of metal ions into the ground water. Who would have thought these little guys in their own little way are doing something for the bigger cause!
Most pill bugs live for up to two years.
The Winter Garden taken from up the rotten Post Oak ladder. (A Darwin award waiting to happen)… “Man tragically dies in attempt to obtain shot for garden blog post.”
Here is the Patch after the leaf and general clean up, all ready for the spring. You can really see the bamboo damage from the last cold snap. The hardscaping really becomes visible at this time of year, taking center stage from the plants for a change.
This clean-up was expedited due to the fact that I had twenty four hours before the local scouts for the Garden Conservancy Tour were to set foot in the Patch (Thanks Linda). The ESP is to be on the 2010 tour in Austin in October.
Looking back the other way, look at that sago palm damage! And more bamboo damage (top left / right).
Other slightly out of focus photos this week…
A Snail Haven… (Ahem)
Painted yellow margin on an Agave Americana.
Inspirational image of the week:
Stay Tuned for:
“Journey to the Center of the Patch”
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