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Sowbug (Oniscus spp.)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Sowbug

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Small, armored Sowbugs are more likely to cling to part of their shelter rather than run away when exposed.

Updated: 01/05/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Sowbugs are small, crawling Isopods, not insects. They cannot fly and do not sting. They are shaped like a bean and have many small legs hidden under their gray, or occasionally orange, segmented armor plates. They are sometimes likened to a mini-armadillo. Sowbugs do not roll up to protect themselves like similar-looking relatives, Pillbugs. To differentiate between these two types of Isodpods, look for two small tail-like appendages at the rear end. Sowbugs have them; Pillbugs do not. Sowbugs also have two pairs of antennae, though the second set is not easily visible.

Like Pillbugs, Sowbugs can be found under stones, large rocks, logs, leaf litter, compost, mulch, and wood stacks. In fact, another name for a Sowbug is Woodlouse (plural: Woodlice). They scavenge for decomposing organic debris in these areas. It is not unusual to see a few under the same stone or log, all searching for food. They prefer moist areas and head toward darker, more humid areas if displaced. Infestations are not likely and they are not considered a nuisance. If any find do their way indoors, they are unlikely to live long unless they find a damp, cool place. Removing debris and maintaining a dry interior will reduce the likelihood of seeing them inside.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Malacostraca
      Order: Isopoda
        Family: Oniscidae
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          Genus: Oniscus
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            Species: spp.

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Oniscus spp.
Other Name(s): Woodlouse, Woodlice
Category: Isopod
Size (Adult; Length): 6mm to 12mm (0.23" to 0.47")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: gray
Descriptors: armor; plates; armadillo; legs; shell; crawling

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 6mm (0.2in) and 12mm (0.5in)
Lo: 6mm
Md: 9mm
Hi: 12mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Sowbug may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Sowbug. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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