Rollie pollies, also known as pill bugs, or potato bugs, aren’t all bad. Small amounts of these little black crustaceans thrive in the damp, and eat decaying plant matter. They’re great for helping your compost. They also help move the dirt around like earthworms, and get rid of rot before it spreads. But it’s really easy for a few pill bugs to become a swarm, and that is very bad for your vegetable garden.
Unfortunately, a lot of the things that kill rollie pollies also kill garden-friendly crawlies, like ladybugs, or worms. Ant spray and other pesticides are not a great idea in the vegetable garden, since you’re going to want to feed those vegetables to your family. But with this guide, we have a few ideas on how to naturally and safely get rid of an infestation of rollie pollies. And it won’t risk the health of anything else in the garden!
Many insects or other garden critters are drawn to the scent of beer. Beer makes a great natural insecticide for aphids, slugs, and other vegetable-eating insects. Critters zero in on the smell of the beer, then fall in while they’re feeding on it, and drown. To make beer traps in your own garden, you will need
Dig small holes between the rows of vegetables. They should be wide and deep enough that your tuna cans, or other container, will fit in them. If these traps are left on the surface, they may be tipped or dislodged. Pill bugs may also walk around them to get to all the other food-smelling things in your garden. Namely, your vegetables. So dig the hole so you can place the cans inside.
Next, fill the cans about halfway with beer. The rollie pollies will crawl toward the scent, and drown, unable to climb back out again, and you can empty the cans every few days. Easy pest control!
If you have pets, or other animals that may be drawn to the scent of the beer, you might try filling the cans with over-ripe fruit or vegetables instead, which tends to be safer for animals to eat. You should be aware though, this method means the rollie pollies will also survive. You’ll have to either squash them yourself, or take them somewhere far from your garden, and hope they don’t find their way back! On the bright side, these little guys are great for the compost heap, so if you’ve got a compost pile a distance away from your vegetable garden, it’s a great place to put them!
Rollie pollies love moisture. They are strongly attracted to the damp in your garden. A good way to cut down on rollie pollies in the garden is to garden in the morning, so that by mid-day, the earth is too hot for them to be out. But there’s nothing that can be done about the early morning dew, which tends to bring them out in droves. A good way to deal with them is by covering your garden, to make it harder to get into the damp earth, where they tend to thrive. The newspaper method of getting rid of rollie pollies is really simple. It doesn’t even harm them! All you need is:
There are a couple different ways to implement this method. The idea, like the beer trap, is to provide the rollie pollies with a more appetizing source of food. Preferably, one you can remove afterward, insects and all! Damp newspaper gives off a scent which the rollie pollie mistakes for food. By surrounding your growing vegetable plants with newspaper that is wet, the rollie pollie will munch on that, rather than on your plants.
In the morning, you’ll find them, fat and happy, still gnawing on the newspaper, which you can then lift up and carry far away from your garden! With raised beds, you can line the newspaper around the outside of your garden. This makes it a lot easier to lift up in the morning, and makes it a lot less likely the rollie pollies have got into your garden at all, in search of more than newspaper. If you’re squeamish at all, this may not be the right method for you. Carrying a heavy newspaper full of crawling critters may not be for everyone!
The best way to keep rollie pollies out of your garden is to never let them get in there in the first place. These little crawlies are nocturnal, meaning they’re most active at night. They love the dark and damp. To keep the dark and damp out of your garden, use grass clippings or hay to cover the earth, instead of mulch and wood chips. Leaf mulch, or the wood chips often used in mulch tend to hold on to moisture, and make a homey environment for invading rollie pollies. Using grass clippings keeps the ground drier during the day. Scheduling your watering for mornings also helps keep your garden dry while the rollie pollies are most active.
Rollie pollies in small numbers are very beneficial to the garden. They love compost, and help to break down organic waste. They eat rot and decay. However, in large numbers, they might just eat their way through your entire vegetable garden! There are many reasons to not use insecticide to get rid of them. Firstly, it’s not a good idea to use pesticides on vegetables you want to feed to your family.
Secondly, anything that kills the rollie pollie, is likely to kill other helpful insects, like ladybugs, and even earthworms. Fortunately, there are simple ways to trap these crawling crustaceans before they ever get to your harvest. With these tips, we’re sure your garden will be bug-free and you’ll be free to eat your vegetables yourself.
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