Welcome to our weekly series: Friday’s Farm Fauna. Life abounds at our training farm, and it’s not just the fresh veggies, fruit, and flowers our farmers grow. From wild turkeys to snapping turtles to bumblebees, every Friday, we share a glimpse of the hidden life on our farm.
Few bugs in the garden are beloved by children as much as the roly-poly (Armadillium vulgare). These little creatures are perfectly harmless, they roll up in balls when they’re scared, and their legs gently tickle your palm when they decide that you’re safe enough to explore. What’s not to like?
As we were moving bricks into the field as weights for our row cover, we uncovered this little nest of rolypolies, more formally know as pillbugs. Pillbugs don’t have strong mouthparts, so they only feed on dead or decaying organic matter. This means that pillbugs rarely consume vegetable crops, but will occasionally be discovered feeding on plants that have already been damaged. You most often find them under mulch, rocks, or wherever they can find a sheltered, moist environment. This is particularly important for young pillbugs, whose leading cause of mortality is excessive drying.
Pillbugs are not insects, but crustaceans. Their taxonomic class, according to Wikipedia, “contains a greater diversity of body forms than any other class in the animal kingdom.” Other members of the class include lobsters, crabs, and shrimp. Anyone up for deep-fried popcorn pillbugs?
To read earlier posts in this series, click on the links below:
Pink Spotted Lady Bug
Spotted Cucumber Beetle
Western Gray Tree Frog
Plains Leopard Frog and Western Ribbon Snake
Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar