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Encyclopedia > Pillbug

Armadillidium vulgare
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacean
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Isopoda
Suborder: Oniscidea
Infraorders and Families

Not necessarily a complete list

Armadillidium vulgare

A woodlouse, also known as a pill bug (genus Armadillidium only), armadillo bug, sow bug, slater, ball bug, or roley-poley, is a terrestrial crustacean with a rigid, segmented, calcareous exoskeleton and fourteen jointed limbs. They form the suborder Oniscidea within the order Isopoda, with over 3000 known species.

Woodlice need moisture and so are usually found in damp, dark places, such as under rocks and logs. They are usually nocturnal and are detritivore, feeding only on dead plant matter.

Philoscia muscorum

In the United Kingdom there are 37 native or naturalized species ranging in colour and in size (3 to 30mm) of which only five are common: Oniscus asellus (the common shiny woodlouse), Porcellio scaber (the common rough woodlouse), Philoscia muscorum (the common striped woodlouse), Trichoniscus pusillus (the common pygmy woodlouse) and Armadillidium vulgare (the common pill bug).

Some woodlice are able to roll into a ball-like form when threatened by predators, leaving only their armoured back exposed. It is this ability which explains many of the woodlouse's common names.

A female woodlouse will keep fertilised eggs in a patch on the underside of her body until they hatch into small, pink offspring. The mother then appears to be "giving birth" to her offspring.


In linguistics, asking what a person calls a woodlouse is a common question used to determine what part of the United States a person is from based on the name the person uses for woodlice. For example, in the south, they are almost always called "roley-poleys." In the northeast, they tend to be called "pillbugs." Other names may be used in other regions.

Pill Bugs in culture and cinema

Tuck and Roll were the pill bug acrobats who appeared as supporting characters in the Pixar film A Bug's Life. They have been immortalized in a "Tuck and Roll's Drive'Em Buggies" ride at Disney's California Adventure.

See also

  Results from FactBites:
Pillbugs (2257 words)
Pillbugs are easily recognized by their flattened or round-backed profile, seven pairs of legs, and sharply-angled antennae.
Pillbugs form an important component of the larger decomposer fauna, along with earthworms, snails, and millipedes.
Pillbugs are also interesting to observe under a low-power microscope (10 to 40 X magnification).
Pillbugs Gone Wild (1873 words)
Pillbugs from plates 1and2 were collected from the flower bed in the center of the Math and Science buildings courtyard, plates 3and4 were collected from the northwest corner of the Math and Science buildings, and plate 5 was collected from a flowerbed in the northeast corner of the same courtyard.
Ten of the pillbugs were placed in a habitat to be used as a test group and the other ten were placed in a separate habitat and used as a control.
Later each of the twenty pillbugs were dunked in 5ml of water, removed with sterile tweezers and then approximately 5ml of the liquid was spread onto the agar plate to determine the effects of the antibiotics on the habitats.
  More results at FactBites »



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