It looks like an insect but is actually one of the few shellfish terrestrial. Very common in our gardens, the woodlouse curls into a ball when it is in danger. Useful in the vegetable garden, it can become intrusive in the House. Zoom in on a small animal that colonizes dark and damp rooms.
Woodlice: family portrait
Woodlice belong to the suborder Oniscoids which constitutes the largest group of crustaceans terrestrial. There are more than 3000 species of woodlice in the world, including 160 in France. Among the many species is the common woodlouse (Armadillidium vulgare) most commonly found in Europe. It is part of arthropods whose common characteristics are:
- A segmented carapace;
- A rigid external skeleton (exoskeleton) which forces the animal to moult frequently during its growth;
- A body divided into the head, thorax and abdomen;
- An open circulatory system.
Woodlouse: its shell does not grow
Measuring about 1.5cm long, the woodlouse has 7 pairs of locomotor legs (or pereiopods) and 5 pairs of pleopods which are actually gills. The crustacean can be recognized by its hard and segmented exoskeleton that it rolls in ball when he feels threatened, leaving only his eyes and antennae to appear. Depending on the species, its color varies from yellowish to pale brown, gray to black, and can also be almost transparent. Composed of limestone, calcium, phosphate and chitin, its articulated armor cannot progressively enlarge as it grows, which explains its moult frequent. Its lifespan is between 2 and 4 years if it does not cross the road of one of its many predators that are the toad, the lizard and some spiders.
The woodlouse also lives in houses
From its aquatic origins, the woodlouse inherits a vital need forhumidity so that his skin does not dry out. For the same reasons, he shuns the light and prefers to frequent dark such as tree bark, leaves, rocks, flower pots, dead wood, mushrooms trumpets-of-death type. The crustacean is also tempted to live in a house that meets its criteria of humidity and darkness. He thus finds refuge in rooms which are neither lighted nor ventilated (such as the cellar or the roof frames) and mold do not frighten him. The bathroom and especially the cooked, especially under the sink is also a popular place for woodlouse who can find some waste to consume.
A decomposing menu
The woodlouse diet consists mainly of raw materials vegetable dead bodies such as fallen leaves, wood, bark and fungi. If food runs out, the crustacean is able to consume material animal provided they are decomposing: insects or small dead reptiles that they will fragment into tiny pieces before ingesting. In case of food shortage, the woodlouse also resigns itself to consuming plants living, like leaves, stems, roots or even fruits.
The role of the woodlouse in the garden
The woodlouse is a detritivore : it feeds on plant detritus of all kinds and as such, readily frequents composts. By consuming them, the crustacean accelerates their decomposition while its droppings will naturally enrich the soil with nitrogen and other compounds found in fertilizers. You can thus ensure to preserve the woodlice living under a rock, a pile of wood or under the leaves of your trees and plants. Very useful in the garden, the woodlouse can show itself intrusive when it colonizes the house.
Get rid of woodlice
As seen previously, woodlice generally live in communities in humid places and / or poorly maintained. If there are really too many of them, there are several things you can do.
- Home maintenance. Find the causes of humidity, ventilate and dry as much as possible. If necessary, install a dehumidifier. In the cellar, try to ventilate as much as possible and let in light. Also be sure to remove the mold, on the ground as on the walls. In the kitchen, do not keep the peelings of vegetables or fruits. Clean all the rooms housing the woodlice, vigorously cleaning the corners where they may have found refuge. Dry and ventilate well after cleaning;
- Repellents. You can get rid of woodlice by spraying insect repellants crawling. There are also natural solutions made from essential oil of neem or neem, a tree native to India that has multiple insecticide and pesticide properties. For more effectiveness, the treatment should last between two weeks and one month, more according to the extent of the infestation. This alternative makes it possible to treat infested areas without pollute the environment or cause side effects on inhabitants and pets;
- Insecticides. If there are no anti-pill bug insecticides, diatomaceous earth represents an ecological and natural solution, particularly used in agriculture. biological to fight against crawlers. Warning: these microscopic algae of organic and fossil origin are not selective and can therefore eliminate harmful insects such as those considered useful;
- Two tips. The first is to file a log damp wood in the infested area and wait a few days. It will then suffice to take out the log with its occupants and place it in a corner of the garden. The second tip aims to dispose in the wettest places of the potatoes cut in half and gutted. The woodlice will gather there and all that remains is to put them outside where they will be happy to clean and enrich your vegetable garden.