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  • Common Pillbug - (Armadillidium vulgare)

    Common Pillbug - (Armadillidium vulgare)

    The Common Pillbug is a harmless and delightful way to introduce children to the world of insects, and though it goes by many different names, 'insect' isn't one of them.

    Staff Writer (6/30/2017): With a plated armor similar to armadillos, it is no mystery how their Genus name was determined. The Common Pillbug has a different common name in various regions of North America. In the West, they are called Sowbugs (though true Sowbugs are actually in a different genus and do not roll up like Pillbugs). In the Midwest, they are Roly-Polies. In the East, they are known as Wood Lice (not to be confused with the smaller insect known to infest human hair). Oddly enough, Common Pillbugs are not actually insects; they are isopods, making them close relatives to ocean creatures like crabs and other crustaceans!

    Regardless, they are fun to play with. When disturbed, they roll up into a tight ball, allowing their armor to protect their soft underbelly, head and many legs. They will remain in that defensive position until the threat is believed to have faded, which can be a long time. Their defensive, balled-up form often outlasts the interest of overzealous children.

    They are considered primitive creatures, but they have an important role in the soil ecosystem. They are a food source for insects and arachnids. Their own diet of rotting organic material like leaves and wood mean they help cycle nutrients through the food web.

    They can be found wandering under rocks, wood piles, fallen trees and other moist places where decomposition is likely taking place.

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    Details of the:
    Common Pillbug

    Category: Isopod
    Common name: Common Pillbug
    Scientific Name: Armadillidium vulgare
    Other Names: Sowbug, Wood Louse, Roly-Poly

      Kingdom: Animalia
       Phylum: Subphylum Crustacea
        Class: Malacostraca
         Order: Isopoda
          Family: Armadillidiidae
           Genus: Armadillidium
            Species: vulgare

    Size (Adult, Length): 4mm to 18mm (0.16in to 0.71in)

    Identifying Colors: gray, black, yellow

    Additional Descriptors: shell, harmless, round, legs, ball, roll, plates, segments, armor, armor

    North American Reach (Though Not Limited To*): Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; California; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Hawaii; Idaho; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Mississippi; Missouri; Montana; Nebraska; Nevada; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Vermont; Virginia; Washington; West Virginia; Wisconsin; Wyoming; Alberta; British Columbia; Manitoba; New Brunswick; Newfoundland and Labrador; Nova Scotia; Ontario; Prince Edward Island; Quebec; Saskatchewan; Mexico

    * Keep in mind that an insect's reach is not limited by lines on a map and therefore may appear in areas/regions/states beyond those listed above.

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