Q: We have been troubled with a bug our pesticide company has identified as a sowbug. My pesticide company has been to our home 3 times so far to spray and they cannot seem to get rid of it. Do you have any suggestions for a spray they can use? It has been about 6 weeks now and they are still a problem. I’d appreciate any ideas you might have.
A: Sowbugs and pillbugs are crustaceans more closely related to shrimp and crayfish than to insects. Other names used for these very common animals include rolypolies and isopods. Sowbugs and pillbugs live in damp habitats where they feed on decaying vegetable matter. Outdoors, these scavengers are found under dead leaves, rocks, boards, grass clippings, flower-bed mulch and other objects on damp ground. Dark, damp areas of the house may become breeding sites for sowbugs, although sowbugs found indoors are usually accidental invaders from outside. Sowbugs do not bite or sting and cannot damage household furnishings. They are a nuisance only. Sowbugs and pillbugs must have moisture to survive and die quickly if there is not a damp location where they can hide. Occasional annoyance by sowbugs should be tolerated; invaders can be vacuumed, swept or picked up and discarded. Persistent problems will require locating the sources of the sowbugs and eliminating or treating these areas. It may take some real detective work to find the breeding ground but it would be worthwhile. In addition, keeping mulch and organic matter away from the foundation (about 12 inches) of the house would be beneficial. The chemical your pesticide company sprayed is probably stronger than any product you can purchase over the counter. Products purchased in your garden center are often marked for sow bugs; a broadcast granular formula might work best. Outdoor insecticides should be applied directly to breeding sites or poured around the house to act as a barrier. The treatment must be applied with enough water to get the insecticide down to the soil surface.