Nobody likes bugs in their flowers. And your garden is a magnet for many insect species as well as one land-locked relative of shrimp--the common sow bug. Often confused with pill bugs, which roll themselves up into a defensive ball when threatened, the sow bug will arch its back into a hump when disturbed. Also referred to as doodlebug, roly-poly and wood louse, the occasional individual or even just a few aren’t going to hurt anything. Large numbers of them, however, can severely damage seedlings and new shoots of young plants. Decaying vegetable matter is the primary food source of these omnivores. Fortunately, sow bugs are relatively easy to control without the use of harmful chemicals. You can readily capitalize on the fact that sow bugs actually breathe with gills, so they require lots of moisture for survival.
Eliminate as much unnecessary moisture from the garden as possible. Spread coarse mulch such as bark around your plants. Diatomaceous earth also is a very good choice. This will allow water to easily drain into the soil rather than lying on top of finer materials, effectively depriving sow bugs of crucial moisture near your plants. The area will be less hospitable to the pests.
Reduce watering frequency and allow the soil to dry a little whenever possible. Take care not to overwater your flower garden.
Remove sow bug food and habitat sources from the area. They’ll eat any decaying vegetation, so get rid of that pile of leaves, weeds or grass clippings. Pick up and dispose of any fruit that might have fallen to the ground, and get rid of any garden or yard debris. Sow bugs also will hide in firewood or anything else you might have stacked around the yard.
Scoop the flesh from inside half a cantaloupe, enjoy it for breakfast and set the rind aside. Have corn on the cob for supper, and reserve the cobs. If you peel potatoes or other vegetables, put the parings in a disposable plastic container. Just about any leftover vegetable matter will suffice, particularly once it begins to decompose.
Trap sow bugs for easy disposal. Take the rind, cobs, parings or other vegetable refuse outside and space them apart near your flowers or other areas where you’ve observed sow bug activity. Turn the cantaloupe rinds upside down, and place plastic containers on their sides for easy access. The primarily nocturnal pests will be highly attracted to these baits, and will be content to feed on them all night. They’re not likely to leave their meals before you arrive the following day to collect the baited bugs in plastic bags.
Things You Will Need
- Coarse mulch--bark or diatomaceous earth
- Cantaloupe rind, corn cob, potato peels, other vegetable refuse
- Disposable plastic container
- Plastic bags
- Although they're creepy-crawlies, do try to keep in mind that sow bugs are actually very beneficial creatures. They feed on rotting vegetation, which helps to accelerate recycling of consumed nutrients back into the environment.
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