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"Pillbugs" redirects here. For the band, see The Pillbugs.
Armadillidium vulgare 001.jpg
Armadillidium vulgare
Slater rolled up for wiki.jpg
Armadillidium vulgare in its defensive posture
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Isopoda
Suborder: Oniscidea
Family: Armadillidiidae
Brandt, 1833

The Armadillidiidae are a family of woodlice, a terrestrial crustacean group in the order Isopoda. Unlike members of other woodlouse families, members of this family can roll into a ball, an ability they share with the outwardly similar but unrelated pill millipedes and other animals. It is this ability which gives woodlice in this family their common name of pill bugs[1] or roly polies,[2] or doodlebugs.[3] The best known species in the family is Armadillidium vulgare, the common pill bug.

Ecology and behaviour[edit]

Woodlice in the family Armadillidiidae are able to form their bodies into a ball shape, in a process known as conglobation. This behaviour is shared with pill millipedes (which are often confused with pill bugs[4]), armadillos and cuckoo wasps.[5] It may be triggered by stimuli such as vibrations or pressure, and is a key defence against predation; it may also reduce respiratory water losses.[6]

Relationships with people[edit]

Pill bugs can be considered pests of homes and gardens.[1][7] They are, however, cherished among children, who enjoy keeping them as pets.[8] Keeping a pet pill bug successfully requires a very moist habitat with a lot of light.[9] They can live for about two to three years.[8]

Owners of pet tarantulas sometimes keep pill bugs as cage cleaners in the same habitat. The pill bugs eat feces, mold, and leftovers.[9]


The family Armadillidiidae is differentiated from other woodlouse families by the two-segmented nature of the antennal flagellum, by the form of the uropods, and by the ability to roll into a ball, or conglobate.[10]

Within the family Armadillididae, fifteen genera are currently recognised:[11]


  1. ^ a b Gordon Gordh & David H. Headrick (2011). "Common pillbug". A Dictionary of Entomology (2nd ed.). CAB International. p. 343. ISBN 9781845935429. 
  2. ^ Kenn Kaufman & Kimberly Kaufman (2012). Kaufman Field Guide to Nature of New England. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 364. ISBN 9780618456970. 
  3. ^ Harvard Dialect Survey
  4. ^ "Pill millipede (Glomeris marginata)". ARKive. Retrieved June 21, 2007. 
  5. ^ Edward M. Barrows (2001). Animal Behavior Desk Reference: A Dictionary of Animal Behavior, Ecology, and Evolution (2nd ed.). CRC Press. p. 142. ISBN 978-0-8493-2005-7. 
  6. ^ Jacob T. Smigel & Allen G. Gibbs (2008). "Conglobation in the pill bug, Armadillidium vulgare, as a water conservation mechanism" (PDF). Journal of Insect Science 8 (44): 1–9. doi:10.1673/031.008.4401. PMC 3127403. PMID 20233103. 
  7. ^ David V. Alford (2012). "Woodlice". Pests of Ornamental Trees, Shrubs and Flowers (2nd ed.). Manson Publishing. pp. 434–435. ISBN 9781840761627. 
  8. ^ a b Sheryl Smith-Rogers (October 2009). "Wild Thing: Roly-Poly Pillbugs". TPW Magazine. Retrieved July 10, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b Stanley A. Schultz & Marguerite J. Schultz (2009). The Tarantula Keeper's Guide: Comprehensive Information on Care, Housing, and Feeding. Barron's Educational Series. pp. 181–183. ISBN 978-0-7641-3885-0. 
  10. ^ P. J. Hayward & John Stanley Ryland (1995). "Crustaceans". Handbook of the Marine Fauna of North-West Europe. Oxford University Press. pp. 289–461. ISBN 978-0-19-854055-7. 
  11. ^ Marilyn Schotte (2012). "Armadillidiidae". In M. Schotte, C. B. Boyko, N. L. Bruce, G. C. B. Poore, S. Taiti & G. D. F. Wilson. World Marine, Freshwater and Terrestrial Isopod Crustaceans database. World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved September 26, 2012. 

External links[edit]

  • Regional maps for the most common American names for this isopod can be found in the results for question 74 of the Harvard Dialect Survey.