Pillbugs, also called sowbugs or woodlice, can be found in your backyard. Pillbugs are correctly classified as terrestrial Isopods and belong to the class Crustacea. Familiar crustaceans include lobsters, crabs, shrimp, and daphnia (water fleas). The crustaceans, in turn, are part of a larger group, Arthropoda, or jointed-legged animals. All arthropods have a tough outer cuticle and a trunk divided into segments.
Here are ten facts about pillbugs that will pen your eyes to the bizarre creature living under your flower pots.
- Pillbugs breathe through gills.
Terrestrial or land based pillbugs use gill-like structures to exchange gases. They require moist environments to breathe, but cannot survive being submerged in water.
- A juvenile pillbug molts in two sections.
Pillbugs grow by molting ahard exoskeleton, but they don’t shed their cuticle all at once. First, the back half of its exoskeleton splits away and slides off. Days later, the front section is shed. If you find a pillbug that’s gray or brown on one end, and pink on the other, it’s in the middle of molting.
- Pillbug mothers carry their eggs in a pouch.
Just like crabs and other crustaceans, pillbugs carry their eggs around with them. Overlapping thoracic plates form a special pouch, called a marsupium, on the pillbug’s underside. Upon hatching, the tiny juvenile pillbugs remain in the pouch for several days before leaving to o explore the world on their own.
- Pillbugs don’t urinate.
Most animals must convert their ammonia wastes into urea before it can be excreted from the body. Pillbugs have an amazing ability to tolerate ammonia gas. Their amoonia waste passes directly through their exoskeleton. So, they never urinate.
- A pillbug can drink with its anus.
Though pillbugs do drink with their mouths, they can also take in water through their rear ends. Tube-shaped structures called uropods can draw water up into the body when needed.
- Pillbugs curl into tight balls when threatened.
Most kids have poked a pillbug just to watch it roll up into a tight ball. This is why many people call them roly polies.
- Pillbugs eat their own poop.
Pillbugs eat ots of feces, including their own. Each time a pillbug poops, it loses a little copper, an essential element it needs to survive. In order to recycle this precious resource, the pillbug will consume its own poop, a practice known as coprophagy.