Sowbugs may not be as unnerving and hated as cockroaches, but these critters have no place in your home. If you see them anywhere, it's natural to wonder what's happening and how to keep them out for good. Let's go over everything you need to know about sowbugs, including how to get rid of them.

What Are Sowbugs?

Sowbugs are a wide group of crawling pests in the same family as rollie pollies, or pill bugs. They are decomposers, meaning they primarily eat dead plant or animal matter, and this makes them important cleaners in the wild. However, sowbugs can also eat living plants, which can make them a nuisance to the plants in your home or garden. They are also known as woodlice, but this is just a common name, and lice are a completely different branch of insects.

Sowbugs are technically crustaceans, just like crabs, crayfish, and barnacles. They belong to the only group of crustaceans that live on land, shared with pill bugs. Although they live on land, they require plenty of moisture to survive and will avoid dry places.

What Do Sowbugs Look Like?

Image via Flickr by Fyn Kynd

Sowbugs are medium-sized insects that reach up to a half-inch in length. Their bodies are dark gray and they have two short, jointed antennae, plus two smaller antennae underneath. Sowbugs have seven pairs of short legs, and their backs are covered in ten overlapping plates that provide protection while keeping the body flexible.

Although Sowbugs are closely related to pill bugs, they have one key difference: sowbugs do not roll up into a ball for protection. Another, more subtle difference is two short tail-like growths at the back of the body, which pill bugs lack.

Where Do Sowbugs Live?

Sowbugs will live anywhere with enough moisture to keep them alive. Outdoors, they will usually live in dark places with lots of dead matter, such as in old fallen trees or under a mulch layer. Indoors, they'll usually inhabit basements, sunrooms, greenhouses, crawlspaces, enclosures, etc. Because of their fondness for decaying food, they are particularly common in woodpiles or compost heaps, hence the common name of woodlice.

Problems With Sowbugs

Because these insects have such flat bodies, they can rather easily enter your home through door thresholds, window gaps, and other small entrances. If you see lots of sowbugs in your home, it could mean that a large population is breeding close to or within the foundation of your home. In general, sowbugs pose little threat or issue. They cause little damage and do not sting, bite, or spread diseases. When overpopulated, however, they can be an annoying and disheartening indoor pest.

Sowbugs Control Solutions

Although sowbugs are not a common or problematic pest, they can get annoying if they appear in your home. However, if they are becoming a frequent visitor, that is usually the sign of a large outdoor habitat nearby. First check to see whether any sources of decaying material, such as woodpiles or compost heaps, could be moved farther away from your home's foundation. Apart from that, other sowbug control options include:

  • Eliminate moisture and standing water: Sowbugs invading the home could be a sign of moisture issues. Remove any constant sources of available water, such as pet bowls, when not in use. This applies outdoors as well. Make sure any gutter downspouts pour away from the foundation. You may want to use a dehumidifier in perpetually moist areas like basements, or invest in waterproofing.
  • Seal up your home: Do not leave doors open, including doors to a garage or enclosure. Seal up any potential passageway with door guards, caulk for window seals, etc. For areas with ventilation, such as crawlspaces and vents, it may help to keep them cleared so sowbugs can't comfortably live there.
  • Prevent foundation access: Keep as little dead organic matter near your home as possible. Don't stack logs or junk like old boards against your foundation, and clear out any easy hiding places such as stones. If you have flowerbeds or other areas with mulch or dead vegetation, try to move it away from the outer walls. Give the sowbugs no good reason to try and shift from outside to inside. It may also help to trim tree limbs and shrubs so that they don't put too much shade or rainfall on your home.
  • Clean up: Because sowbugs are decomposers, they are fond of garbage. Consider getting sealed trash cans for your home instead of open ones, and when it's time to take out the trash, seal up the bags properly and keep them in closed outdoor cans.

In the more extreme cases, where you aren't sure what has invited so many sowbugs into your home, chemical or other professional pest control options might be more effective. Every home and pest issue is unique, so don't listen to pest controllers who don't ask questions before offering a treatment. The experts at Bulwark can diagnose and solve your problem with sowbugs and leave you 100% satisfied, guaranteed.

Common Sowbug Questions

Where Did Sowbugs Come From?

Sowbugs are so old that they are believed to have originated in the ocean as a completely marine species, later transitioning to land in the Carboniferous period, between 360 million and 300 million years ago. There are still some sowbugs that live exclusively in marine environments. Their breadth of species, survivability, and age makes them a frequent topic of scientific study.

How Quickly Do Sowbugs Reproduce?

The female sowbug may produce several broods per year, each with a batch of 25 eggs. Each female has an organ called a marsupium, an underbelly pouch that lets them provide water, nutrients, and oxygen to the developing eggs before they hatch.

Sowbugs are a useful part of the outdoor circle of life, breaking down old and dead materials to support new plant growth. That said, you don't have to accept these tiny creatures where they don't belong. Contact us today directly or with our home assessment form and tell us your story.

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