Bald Head Island Conservancy

All About Pill Bugs: Conservancy Camp’s New Hobby

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By Kat Anderson, Summer 2024 Intern

During my first week at Conservancy Camp, our campers realized that pill bugs can be found almost everywhere on the island. Whether in the park or in our outdoor classroom at the BHIC campus, campers and counselors alike spent the week turning up logs looking for these tiny rolled up bugs.

Pill bugs are commonly referred to as rollie pollies, potato bugs, or wood lice, but their scientific name is Armadillidium vulgare. They might have so many names because they can be found almost anywhere in the world—while pill bugs are native to Europe, they are now considered cosmopolitan, a term for species that are extremely widespread. Pill bugs are taxonomically classified as members of the subphylum Crustacea, meaning that they are more closely related to shrimp and lobsters than other bugs like insects, which are members of the subphylum Hexapoda.

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Pill bugs collected during free play at Conservancy Camp

Pill bugs are also classified as isopods, which are an order of small crustaceans that can be distinguished by their body plan of seven segments and seven pairs of legs. While most isopods live in marine environments, pill bugs are one of the few species that live on land. However, like other crustaceans, they still breathe through gill-like organs, so they require a humid environment. Their ability to roll into a ball can help them conserve water in dry conditions.

Pill bugs are nocturnal and prefer moist, dark habitats underneath leaf cover and debris on forest floors. They provide important ecosystem services as detritivores, organisms that feed on decaying organic matter and return nutrients to the soil. Next time you’re in a woody area, take a look in the dirt to see if you can spot one of these unique terrestrial isopods!



Dobson, C., & Postema, D. (2014). The amazing ecology of terrestrial isopods. Science and Children, 051(07).

I see icy isopods: Pillbugs, terrestrial Isopoda. (2021, January 11). Bug of the Week.

Pillbug—Armadillidium vulgare. (n.d.). Retrieved June 10, 2024, from,known%20as%20a%20terrestrial%20crustacean.

Pillbug—Bugwoodwiki. (n.d.). Retrieved June 10, 2024, from


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