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5 Ways to Keep Pill Bugs from Destroying Your Garden

Although rollie pollies (also called pill bugs or potato bugs) usually eat decaying and decomposing plant matter, occasionally, pill bug numbers are high, and they can wreak havoc on a garden (and your favorite strawberries!). This post shares my favorite natural pill bug control methods.

To my great frustration, countless seedlings have been destroyed by rollie pollies in my garden.  As an organic gardener, I’m unwilling to use pesticides to control pill bug numbers when they get off balance, so I’ve had to get creative. These are my time-tested and favorite ways to keep pill bugs from killing my seeds and seedlings. 

5 Best Ways to Keep Rollie Pollies from Destroying Your Garden

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Best Natural Pill Bug Control Methods For the Home Gardener

This post shares my favorite natural pill bug control methods.

1. Don’t give rollie pollies in the garden what they want

This post shares my favorite natural pill bug control methods.
Pill bugs love strawberries.

Pill bugs prefer damp and dark hiding places. Try not to make life comfortable for them. 

Remove wet leaves, fallen fruit, and dead plant matter from your garden. Try not to overwater your garden, as rollie pollies are also attracted to moisture. 

This post shares my favorite natural pill bug control methods.

This step can be helpful, but if you still have problems, keep reading through the rest of the ways to keep pill bugs from destroying your garden.


2. Set traps to get rid of rollie pollies in your garden

If an area of your garden has an overabundance of pill bugs, setting traps is an effective way to bring the numbers back in balance. Check traps daily, and remove and either discard or transplant the pill bugs to other areas of your yard. 

If an area of your garden has an overabundance of pill bugs, setting traps is an effective way to bring the numbers back in balance. Check traps daily, and remove and either discard or transplant the pill bugs to other areas of your yard


EFFECTIVE WAYS TO TRAP PILL BUGS INCLUDE:


Citrus or fruit traps as a natural pill bug control method

If an area of your garden has an overabundance of pill bugs, setting traps is an effective way to bring the numbers back in balance. Check traps daily, and remove and either discard or transplant the pill bugs to other areas of your yard. 

Cut the fruit in half and place it face down in the affected area. The pill bugs will be drawn to the fruit. Check traps in the morning, and dig down a bit to collect the rollie pollies. Fruit can often be used for 2-3 days in a row. 


Beer or yeast traps as a natural pill bug control method

Rollie pollies collected from yeast trap
Rollie pollies collected from yeast trap
Rollie pollies collected from yeast trap

Set a shallow container (such as a pie plate) with the rim flush to the ground; fill with beer or 1-2 Tb yeast dissolved in water. The rollie pollies will be drawn to the beer or yeast, fall in, and drown.


3. Make paper tube, newspaper, or duct tape collars how to get rid of rollie pollies in your garden

Duct tape collar to prevent pill bug damage to plants

Sick of losing my seedlings to rollie pollie damage, I wrapped the stems in duct tape (sticky side out) and it worked! The seedlings are thriving with no pest damage to the stems. This technique is quick, simple, and effective. I’ve also used newspaper and toilet paper rolls as collars effectively. 


Duct tape collar as a natural pill bug control method

5 Best Ways to Keep Rollie Pollies from Destroying Your Garden
Duct tape collar to prevent pill bug damage to plants

Wrap a small piece of duct tape (sticky side out) around the stem of a seedling. Bury one-half of the taped stem in the ground, leaving some of the tape above ground as well. Remove the tape when the stem grows larger to keep the tape from suffocating the stem. 


Newspaper collar as a natural pill bug control method

Tear a couple-inch strip of newspaper and carefully wrap it around the seedling stem, burying some if possible. As the seedling grows, the paper will fall off — no need to remove it. 

Paper collar to prevent pill bug damage to plants
Paper collar to prevent pill bug damage to plants

Toilet paper tube collar as a natural pill bug control method

Slide the tube over the seedling and into the soil. It’s best to have the collar buried an inch or two below the soil. 

5 Best Ways to Keep Pill Bugs from Destroying Your Garden
Toilet paper tube collar to prevent pill bug damage to plants

I’ve had mixed success with this type of collar. Sometimes it works. Other times the pill bugs get inside the collar. 



4. Overplant to overwhelm the rollie pollies in the garden

Certain crops are best started in the garden from seed, which makes using collar methods ineffective – the seedlings are often eaten before there is anything above ground to protect. When this happens, I usually try overplanting. 

5 Best Ways to Keep Rollie Pollies from Destroying Your Garden - This post shares my favorite natural pill bug control methods.

For example, instead of planting 1-2 seeds, I plant 3-4 seeds. In my experience, at least one of the seeds is overlooked or somehow protected by the other seedlings and not eaten by the rollie pollies — success! 

If more than one seedling survives, thin additional seedlings by cutting at the soil level rather than pulling. (Pulling may disturb the roots of remaining seedlings.)

5 Best Ways to Keep Rollie Pollies from Destroying Your Garden - This post shares my favorite natural pill bug control methods.

5. Use Diatomaceous earth (DE) or Nematodes to combat pill bugs in the home garden

Using diatomaceous earth (DE) to combat pill bug overpopulation:

Diatomaceous earth (DE) can be an effective means of controlling pill bug populations around your plants. DE is safe to handle (for animals and pets, too) but not to inhale – wear a mask while using.

5 Best Ways to Keep Rollie Pollies from Destroying Your Garden - This post shares my favorite natural pill bug control methods.

DE, or diatomaceous earth, works to kill pill bugs by dehydrating them. Diatomaceous earth is made up of tiny fossilized aquatic organisms called diatoms. When pill bugs come into contact with DE, the sharp edges of the diatoms cut through the bug’s exoskeleton and absorb the moisture, causing the bug to dehydrate and die.

DE is commonly used in organic pest control as it is non-toxic to humans, pets, and the environment. It is important to follow the instructions on the product label when using DE to ensure effective and safe usage.

5 Best Ways to Keep Rollie Pollies from Destroying Your Garden - This post shares my favorite natural pill bug control methods.

To use DE for pill bug control, apply a thin layer around their frequented areas, wear gloves and a mask, avoid windy conditions, and re-apply after rain. Apply in the late afternoon when the bugs are active and follow the product label for safe and effective results.


Using nematodes to combat pill bug overpopulation:

Nematodes are microscopic organisms that are often used as a natural method of controlling pests in gardens.

Specifically, the Steinernema carpocapsae nematode is effective at targeting and killing pill bugs. These nematodes are applied to the soil in the garden and penetrate the skin of the pill bug. Once inside, they release a bacteria that quickly kills the pill bug.

5 Best Ways to Keep Rollie Pollies from Destroying Your Garden - This post shares my favorite natural pill bug control methods.

Using nematodes for pest control is considered a safe and environmentally friendly option as they only attack specific pests and do not harm beneficial insects or soil quality. However, it’s important to follow the application instructions carefully to ensure the nematodes are introduced properly.

Additionally, nematodes may not be as effective if the soil is too dry or too hot, so it’s important to monitor the environmental conditions in your garden to determine the best time to use this method.


Which natural pill bug control methods should you try in your home garden?

I’ve found the best way to bring pill bug numbers back into balance is by incorporating a combination of these methods. Effective methods for combating pill bug damage in a home garden include reducing favorable environmental conditions, creating physical barriers, using predators, manually removing the bugs, and using natural repellents.

5 Best Ways to Keep Rollie Pollies from Destroying Your Garden - This post shares my favorite natural pill bug control methods.

Looking for more information about managing pests?

Organic Pest Control That Really Works

Do you have other pests in your garden? Read this post for organic pest control that really works


If this post about natural pill bug control methods was helpful, please share it:

JoJo

Sunday 7th of April 2024

Tried the soy sauce in a shallow pan flush with the soil level and woke up to a tremendous number of fire ants for my trouble! Ordered Sluggo Plus from Amazon and will be trying that next.

Angela Judd

Thursday 11th of April 2024

Good to know. I don't usually get fire ants, but know they are a horrible nuisance. Thanks for the report.

Xenia

Saturday 6th of April 2024

Aren't Pillbugs supposed to be good for the garden? Rollie pollies didn't make any damage ever in my garden, but that's maybe because my garden is in Europe (a.k.a. native species, species that are native here but are invasive but are invasive in the United States of America, or just species of potato bugs that don't do any damage the species plants I raise). What species of isopods make damage to plants in the USA?

Angela Judd

Thursday 11th of April 2024

They can be helpful in breaking down heavy metals from the soil, but at times they get out of balance. When that happens they not only eat dead and decaying matter but young seedlings other plants too.

Mags

Thursday 9th of November 2023

Thank you. I will be using a combination of all of these. I literally lost all my peppers, beans, lettuce, and strawberries and most of my potatoes last year. The infestation was out of control, so hopefully setting traps and everything from the beginning of the year and my drying them out all summer and fall will keep them away. I’ve always had issues with pests but never like last year.

Angela Judd

Tuesday 14th of November 2023

If those don't work an organic option to use with a light hand would be Sluggo Plus https://amzn.to/47onJjA

Mary

Thursday 19th of October 2023

I’ve had pill bugs destroy entire crop of seedlings. I now use corn meal to repel them. I sprinkle circle borders around each plant or group of plants.

San

Sunday 1st of October 2023

Has anyone had success with just drying out the raised garden bed ? I’m thinking of covering mine with plastic to keep our Victoria rains out of it. I’ll lose the earthworms and other beneficials but if it helps to kill all Rollie Pollies, I’ll do it.