You have probably seen them in your basement or garden, for they live under stones and bark in damp places. While they exist in large numbers here in North America, they also reside in the wettest areas of Germany.
Pill bugs hide in damp places during the day and are active at night. Under moist areas such as bark and stones, they make their burrow (living quarters.) One of the pill bugs' most surprising characteristics is that they have such a wide distribution pattern. "Home" can be a forest, garden, or basement.
Their light shell-like crustaceous exterior is usually a drab earthy color. Pill bugs found in North America range from gray to brown. However, those with habitats in Europe have large red dots, which give them protection by conferring a resemblance to black widow spiders. Pill bugs have five abdominal segments which are distinct dorsally. Their first antennae are vestigial.
A. vulgare reproduce on land as opposed to in water. Eggs develop in a brood pouch filled with fluid, from which fully developed young are released. They produce between one and two broods. The number produced depends on the size and condition of the female, who may cease to grow under stress due to excessive hydration, which reduces the chance of a second reproduction. Ironically, when the food supply is short, the offspring grow larger.
Pill bugs live in an arrangement where the father reigns supreme. He guards the burrow in which the family lives. The monogamous pair (the mother and father) gather food for the entire family. Then, the entire family cleans the burrow of faecal pellets. Faecal pellets are carried outside the burrow around the entrance. In February the family disbands and the young set out to make new families of their own. However, the juveniles will always stay within 10 to 100m of the family's main burrow.
A. vulgare, like most isopods, are omnivorous. They feed on fungi, live or dead plants and animals. Special treats for pill bugs are monocotyledonous leaves. All isopods increase decomposition by processing leaves through their alimentary canal. It is not uncommon for pill bugs to shift from one type of food to another, for during a drought they turn from being vegetarians into scavengers.
They are famous for curling up into a tight ball for a defense mechanism. Some may secrete a substance which discourages spiders. The most common defense among all of them is to remain inconspicuous.
These animals are part of the community of species that break down dead plants and animals.
Pill bugs living in gardens help circulate soil, although they may also eat small plants.
Pillbugs may occasionally eat small plants as they germinate, causing some trouble in gardens.
Pill bugs are quite common and have no special conservation status.
They are famous for curling up into a tight ball for a defense mechanism. Some may secrete a substance which discourages spiders. The most common defense among all of them is to remain inconspicuous. They have a life span of up to five years!
Courtney Jane Brown (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
helps break down and decompose dead plants and/or animals
an animal that mainly eats meat
an animal that mainly eats decomposed plants and/or animals
animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature
an animal that mainly eats leaves.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
an animal that mainly eats fruit
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
an animal that mainly eats fungus
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
an animal that mainly eats dead animals
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
Philip, P. 1988. The New Encyclopedia Britanica. Fifteenth Edition. Page 416
Warburg, M. 1993. Evolutionary Biology of Land Isopods. Springer-Verlag, NY. Pages 50-53, 69, 70-70, and 101.
Pearse/Buchsbaum 1987. Living Invertibrates. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Palo Alto, California. Page 514