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Pesky Pests: Rollie-Pollies (pill bugs)

You've ordered french fries, after your friend said didn't want french fries. Only to then have them sneaking them off your plate before... Or you've been the person to not order your own fries. *guilty* This is how I feel when it comes to pests in my garden. Don't get me started...

As an organic gardener I try to go the least evasive route when it comes to pest management. This often means allowing the pests to do their damage in hopes that the ecosystem will bring in a garden friend and balance out.


Never have I ever heard of anyone deal with a pill bug problem before. I even researched when I first stared seeing them around to see if they were garden friends or foes. I determined at the time that they were friends. They're decomposers so they eat dead, rotten, decaying plant matter. That is until the population has gotten out of hand and there isn't enough organic matter to feed all of them... then they turn to attack the plants in the garden. I only first realized that they were a pest when I found large red tomatoes at the bottom of my large plants and when to go pick them up.

I actually wrote this off thinking I hadn't seen the tomatoes in time and maybe they had rotted against the soil. Then I started finding tomatoes with the pill bugs that were not rotten, After seeing what had been eating my tomatoes, I found that it was the same thing that had been eating my strawberries. For most of the summer season I didn't do anything about it. Just tried to harvest my veggies before they could get to them and moved my strawberry container off the ground.

​The problem had to be managed after all of my spinach plants, 2 squash plants and with the help of white flies 6/10 green bean plants had been wiped out. Basically my fall garden was not looking to great. Rather than loose hope, I thought I would try diatomaceous earth (DE) to control the pill bugs. Its a very fine white powder composed of fossilized aquatic organisms that have been mined. The fine powder is abrasive and scrapes the exoskeleton, making it easy to then adsorbs the fats and oils from hard bodied insects. While leaving earth worms unharmed.

Using a flour sifter, I spread out a nice even coat over the entire bed and didn't water for several days to allow the DE to sit on the surface. I do still have pill bugs, but the garden is no longer infested with them. I keep an eye out for signs the are still feeding on my plants by checking the base of the plants. I will also take food scraps from our fridge and lay it out, so they have something to eat, then in the morning scoop up the scraps and the bugs and dispose of them.

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