Armadillidium vulgare

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Armadillidium vulgare
Armadillidium vulgare 001.jpg
Scientific classification
A. vulgare
Binomial name
Armadillidium vulgare
Latreille, 1804 [1]
Synonyms [2]
  • Armadillidium affine
  • Armadillidium armeniense
  • Armadillidium brevicaudatum
  • Armadillidium commutatum
  • Armadillidium decipiens
  • Armadillidium marmoreum
  • Armadillidium nitidulum
  • Armadillidium oliveti
  • Armadillidium pilulare
  • Armadillidium schellenbergi
  • Armadillidium sorattinum
  • Armadillidium subdentatum
  • Armadillidium triviale
  • Armadillidium variegatum
  • Armadillo ater
  • Armadillo convexus
  • Armadillo marmoreus
  • Armadillo pilularis
  • Armadillo pustulatus
  • Armadillo trivialis
  • Armadillo variegatus
  • Armadillo vulgaris

Armadillidium vulgare, the (common) pill-bug, potato bug, (common) pill woodlouse, roly-poly, doodle bug, or carpenter, is a widespread European species of woodlouse. It is the most extensively investigated terrestrial isopod species.[2]


Armadillidium vulgare may reach a length of 18 millimetres (0.71 in), and is capable of rolling into a ball when disturbed; this ability, along with its general appearance, gives it the name pill-bug and also creates the potential for confusion with pill millipedes such as Glomeris marginata.[3] It can be distinguished from Armadillidium nasatum and Armadillidium depressum, the only other British species in the genus, by the gap that A. nasatum and A. depressum leave when rolling into a ball; A. vulgare does not leave such a gap.[4]


Armadillidium vulgare is able to withstand drier conditions than many other woodlouse species, and is restricted to calcareous soils or coastal areas.[3] It feeds chiefly on decaying plant matter, but also grazes lichens and algae from tree bark and walls.[5]

It is able to regulate its temperature through its behaviour, preferring bright sunshine when temperatures are low, but remaining in shadow when temperatures are high; temperatures below −2 °C (28 °F) or above 36 °C (97 °F) are lethal to it.[6] A. vulgare is less susceptible to cold during the night, and may enter a state of dormancy during the winter in order to survive temperatures that would otherwise be lethal.[6]


The native distribution of A. vulgare ranges across Europe, especially in the Mediterranean Basin.[2] In the United Kingdom, A. vulgare is very common in southern and eastern England, but is more confined to coastal areas in the north.[7] Similarly, in Ireland, A. vulgare is common in the south and east, but rarer in the north and west.[7]

A. vulgare has also been introduced to many locations in North America, where it may reach population densities of up to 10,000 individuals per square metre.[8] It is now one of the most abundant invertebrate species in California coastal grassland habitats.[9] It has also been introduced, to a lesser extent, to sites across the world.[2]

Relationships with humans[edit]

Because of their unusual yet non-threatening appearance, some Armadillidium vulgare are kept as pets in areas throughout the U.S., typically among children. Among adults, they are often seen as unwanted (but essentially harmless) home pests.[10] Keeping a pet pill bug requires a very moist habitat with limited light and lots of decaying plant matter.[11] They can often live up to three years.[10]

Mitochondrial genome[edit]

Most metazoans have circular mitochondrial genomes, but A.vulgare has an unusual combination of both circular and linear mitochondrial DNA.[12]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Armadillidium vulgare". Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
  2. ^ a b c d Helmut Schmalfuss (2003). "World catalog of terrestrial isopods (Isopoda: Oniscidea) — revised and updated version" (PDF). Stuttgarter Beiträge zur Naturkunde, Serie A. 654: 341 pp.
  3. ^ a b "Pill woodlouse (Armadillidium vulgare)". Archived from the original on 2009-09-03. Retrieved February 13, 2009.
  4. ^ "Woodlouse Wizard: an identification key". Natural History Museum. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
  5. ^ "Common pill woodlouse — Armadillidium vulgare". Natural England. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved August 30, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Roberto Refinetti (1984). "Behavioral temperature regulation in the pill bug, Armadillidium vulgare (Isopoda)". Crustaceana. 47 (1): 29–43. doi:10.1163/156854084X00298.
  7. ^ a b "Armadillidium vulgare". Natural History Museum. Archived from the original on October 16, 2012. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  8. ^ Jan Frouza; Richard Lobinske; Jirí Kalcík; Arshad Ali (2008). "Effects of the exotic crustacean, Armadillidium vulgare (Isopoda), and other macrofauna on organic matter dynamics in soil microcosms in a hardwood forest in central Florida". The Florida Entomologist. 91 (2): 328–331. doi:10.1653/0015-4040(2008)91[328:EOTECA]2.0.CO;2.
  9. ^ Oscar H. Paris (1963). "The ecology of Armadillidium vulgare (Isopoda: Oniscoidea) in California grassland: food, enemies, and weather". Ecological Monographs. Ecological Society of America. 33 (1): 1–22. doi:10.2307/1948475. JSTOR 1948475.
  10. ^ a b Smith-Rogers, Sheryl (October 2009). "Wild Thing: Roly-Poly Pillbugs". TPW Magazine. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Marcadé, Isabelle; Cordaux, Richard; Doublet, Vincent; Debenest, Catherine; Bouchon, Didier; Raimond, Roland (2007). "Structure and Evolution of the Atypical Mitochondrial Genome of Armadillidium vulgare (Isopoda, Crustacea)". Journal of Molecular Evolution. 65 (6): 651. Bibcode:2007JMolE..65..651M. doi:10.1007/s00239-007-9037-5. PMID 17906827.