Other than spiders, ants and catepillars, the Roly Pollie was one of the staple “bugs” I used to play with as a child. Despite spending countless hours harassing these guys, inducing them to roll up into miniature balls, I realized yesterday that I know NOTHING about them. I didn’t even know what they eat! I chose to change that.
Armadillidium vulgare, more commonly referred to as the Roly Pollie or Pill Bug, is in fact NOT an INSECT! It is a arthropod, just like spiders and insects, but what came as a surprise to me was that the Pill Bug is a Crustacean. That means this little guy is more closely related to crabs than to millipedes even though millipedes have more morphological similarities.
Not only that, they are the ONLY crustacean that can exist it’s entire life away from a body of water. Granted, it still breathes through gills rather than lungs, so it does require areas with high levels of moisture and/or humidity; hence you are alikely to find them under logs, leaves, etc. As for their dietary preferences, Pill Bugs are omnivores, so they typically feed on decaying animals and plants, but are also known to devour live plants as well.
If you have never played with a Poly Pollie, their nickname is derived from their defensive “curling up” action, much like that of an armadillo. (This usually came in form of a 5 year olds probing fingers.) This rolling up also confers additional evolutionary purpose by minimizing loss of water via respiration.
On my quest to learn about the common pill bug, I found many additional surprises. I feel they are best summed up by About.com’s 10 Facts about Pill Bugs.
Holy Moly the lowly Roly Pollie turned out to be much more intriguing that I ever thought. Make sure to watch your step from now on, because that Roly Pollie is no ordinary bug….remember, it’s not even a bug!