Armadillo bugs are great clean-up guys. But when a new plant arrives lush and superb, then is reduced to a few stem-sticks in a matter of days, I cease to be a fan.
I have respect for armadillo bugs since I saw them cut down a towering hosta leaf then call in all the relatives to gather round the felled feast as if it were Thanksgiving. I got the impression the large adults had chewed through the thick stem to made the tender upper leaf available to little ones. I wish I had a picture, because it looked as if they were a large, extended family of armadillo bugs arranged around a feast.
I learned on Twitter that armadillo bugs are crustaceans, like lobsters. They’re not bugs. I checked on Google, and sure enough.
I also was introduced to several alternate names: roly-poly, potato bug, doodle bug, pillbug, boatbuilder. My Polish grandfather called them sow bugs, but he said they were millipedes.
When I grew strawberries in my garden soil, armadillo bugs ate my strawberries. From then on I purchased 24″ Fiskars pots, put the pots on my deck, and planted in them. Happiness! That is, if I hadn’t added garden soil which apparently contained armadillo bugs, if too tiny to be easily seen at the time.
2/25/2015 ~ Having discovered armadillo bugs so thick on the ground in my stored 24″ pot of potatoes that they looked like coffee beans in a tin of unground coffee, I’ve begun to think about how they probably enrich garden soil by eating dead leaves (as well as tender plants) and composting as they go, so to speak.
I’ve collected hundreds of them from the pot and as soon as it’s a little warmer outside, I’m going to release them under my ponderosa pine, though I doubt they eat the multitudinous needles.
3/23/2015 ~ This morning several minutes passed without me seeing an armadillo bug in my 24″ pot of peas, collards, radishes, carrots and lettuce. I was overjoyed! I felt I’d finally gotten them all out: no more languishing seedlings with stems eaten nearly through.
I sprinkled some water on the seedlings, relaxed in the sun, looked at the pot… and there were armadillo bugs at the bases of plants and walking between plants.
Using a ladle with a thin spoon I took out several dozen armadillo bugs, ranging from tiny to small.
Lesson ~ What’s seen at first glance may not be all there is.
3/24/2015 ~ I thought I would be picking collards for dinner by next week. But today my largest plant was prone, as if it had wilted for want of water.
The soil didn’t appear dry. Still, I rushed to its rescue with a sprinkling can of water. But, not before flicking away the soil near the stem. There were half a dozen armadillo bugs feasting on the stem.
I dug the armadillo bugs out, using a ladle that’s thin and scoops them up more efficiently than a spoon.
I filled in the hole with Coir Seedstarting mix, watered copiously, and am now hoping the plant recovers.
I have another six or seven pots of tomatoes, but you get the general idea.
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