How to Get Rid of Sow Bugs (aka Rollie Pollies)

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I've had many experiences with different methods of getting rid of rollie pollies in our yard. Here are a few tips that have worked for me.

For the most part, sow bugs (aka rollie pollies) are harmless, but can be unsightly, and often migrate by the thousands. Especially during the spring and summer, these creatures can invade your yard or house in large numbers.

The challenge with getting rid of rollie pollies is that insecticides are not effective in getting rid of the permanently. They are attracted to moisture, and unless you get rid of areas of high moisture, they will keep coming back.

First step, sweep or vacuum them away

Obviously, the first thing to do is to get rid of the large infestation, and for this a broom or vacuum works best.

Then, as a short-term solution, use pesticides and traps

  • In my experience, pesticides such as Sevin, Dursban, and Spectracide Bug Stop have worked well against sow bugs as a temporary solution.
  • Spray pesticides outdoors, along the bottom of any exterior doors, around crawl space entrances, foundation vents and utility openings, underneath siding.
  • Another trick I've heard works, is that you can trap pill bugs using a half of a cantaloupe that's placed upside down where pill bugs are a problem.
  • Glue pest boards such as CatchMaster or Tomcat work well as temporary solutions as well.
  • However, remember that these are only short-term solutions. Unless you get rid of moisture, the sow bugs will come back.

Remove plant debris in your yard

Sow bugs are attracted to moist clumps of vegetation. They are primarily nocturnal, and eat decaying leaf litter and vegetable matter. You should clean up any dead leaves, dead plants, plants in your rain gutter, piles of grass clippings, large accumulations of mulch, large boards or stones with moisture beneath them.

Reduce moisture indoors, in your foundation, and outdoors around your home

  • If the problem is indoors, reduce the level of humidity in your home. Keep your home well ventilated, allow air to flow through, use fans and vents whenever possible. The key is to reduce the overall level of moisture, since sow bugs need moist environments to survive.
  • Do an inspection of the moisture levels in and around your garage. There are often moist areas in the corners of garages which can attract rollie pollies and other pests.
  • Don’t allow water to accumulate near your home's foundation. Make sure your gutters are functioning properly and directing water away from your foundation wall.
  • Minimize humidity in crawl spaces in your home. Use sump pumps, soil covers, and make sure you have plenty of ventilation.
  • Check for leaking faucets and water pipes and repair them if needed.
  • Make sure that soil levels are well below the level of any structural wood of your home.
  • Built-in planter boxes are havens for sow bugs, as moisture often collects in the tight spaces between them and your home.

Seal pest entry points

  • Seal cracks if needed in your outside foundation wall and around the bottoms of basement doors and windows. Make sure you have tight-fitting door sweeps on the bottom of all exterior doors, and apply caulk along the bottom outside edge and sides of door thresholds.
  • Be sure to seal expansion joints where outdoor patios, sunrooms and sidewalks meet your home's foundation. Expansion joints and gaps should also be sealed along the bottom of basement walls on the interior, to reduce entry of pests and moisture from outdoors.
  • Use a caulking gun to close any cracks or crevices at or near ground level.
  • Make sure all your doors to the exterior are weather-stripped, including doors in your garage.

I know there's a lot here, but if you take all these steps, you are pretty well guaranteed to solve you sow bug problem for sure.


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