Skip to Content

Are Roly Polys Bad for Vegetable Gardens?

Please share!

*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclaimer for additional details..

Most of us, if not all, know roly polys as bugs, which is not the case. They belong to the crustacean family.

Children love to play with them because they are not slimy and are easy to collect in the gardens. Most birds feed on roly polys. They find them sweet and tasty.

Roly polys are both beneficial and harmful to your vegetables. However, they cause more good than harm to gardens.

Roly polys are not harmful to humans and in most cases, you will find kids playing with them but they will cause damage to young plants and sprouting roots.

They dwell in moist habitats especially under rocks.

Benefits of Roly Polys

Roly polys are a natural way of removing very heavy metals such as lead from the soils thus cleaning the soil.

By feeding on dead decaying matter, they hasten the rate of decomposition in the soil. This will release nutrients to the soil that boost plant growth. Because of this, they are good soil conditioners.

Roly poly bug, Armadillidium vulgare, walking on a concrete floor under the sun

As they eat dead things, their tiny little bodies digest the nutrients. Then, in a not so glorious way, they defecate in your soil which provides a good source of nutrients.

They are an important part of the garden ecosystem and protect what needs to be done at the ground level.

Roly polys are also good at keeping away pests from your garden. They consume any bug eggs they find in your garden.

Harmful Effects of Roly Polys

When their population rapidly increases, roly polys will start feeding of fallen plant debris. If this is the case, they will start devouring your young vegetables once they are done with the insect and plant debris.

However, they are not bad to this extent if provided with enough dead decaying matter for consumption.

What Is a Roly Poly?

Just from the name, roly polys are crustaceans that live on land and roll/ curl into hard balls when disturbed.

They breathe through gills thus love environments where humidity is high. In spite of this, surprisingly, they cannot survive submerged in water.

The female bugs lay eggs in pouches and the eggs remain there for about two months after hatching.

They are scientifically referred to as Armadillidium vulgare.

Other Common Names for Roly Polys

  • Pill bugs
  • Sow bugs
  • Potato bugs
  • Doodle bugs
  • Armadillo bugs
  • Wood lice
  • Slaters
  • Pill millipedes.

What Do They Eat?

Roly polys feed on decomposed or dead decaying plant matter. These could be mulch, dead leaves or grasses, and rotten fruits.

They can also feed on squash, melons, strawberries and any other fruits that lie close or on the ground.

How to Get Rid of Roly Polys

There are a variety of methods you could use to eliminate roly polys from your garden. Here are 9 ways to get rid of roly polys.

  • Clear anything that favors their breeding. Do away with moist environments that are their breeding ground. They will either depart or die.
  • Clear any fallen fruits, leaves, plant debris, or cut grass from your yard. If left to start decomposing, they will act as a haven for these bugs.
  • Use mulch that is permeable to water to enable it to drain the water fast so as not to make the soil damp which will favor the multiplication of these bugs.
  • If their numbers increase rapidly and become intolerable, spray botanical insecticides that act fast and drench the soil.
  • Provide good aeration to the plants by pruning them and also constructing trellises for vine plant varieties that creep on the ground. This will also raise fruits from the ground level thus they will not be easily accessible by the bugs.
  • Apply insecticides to kill the roly polys. However, do not spray the insecticides on vegetables. They may be harmful.
  • Use diatomaceous earth to prevent the infestation of pill bugs.
  • Apply black plastic mulch that will cause heat to build up thus the condition will not favor their stay.
  • Water your plants very early in the morning so that by the time these hugs come out, in the evening, the soil is already dry which can be detrimental to their survival.
Roly poly bug, Armadillidium vulgare, trying to get on his feet again

Do Roly Polys Carry Diseases?

Roly polys do not transmit any diseases despite the fact that they are a nuisance due to their presence. Although they are considered as pests when they invade your garden, they do not bite, sting nor contaminate food.

Other Good Garden Bugs

Having good bugs in your garden is a good way of eliminating detrimental insects from your garden without having to use insecticides that are harmful to your plants.

They are categorized into four groups. These are:


predator bug on a branch

Predators are typically big in size, larger than their prey and consume many pest insects. They are widely referred to as general consumers because they eat anything that comes their way.

Unfortunately, they can end up feeding on the beneficial insects. They include praying mantis and ladybugs.


Pollinators aid in plant growth by promoting pollination to produce fruits and seeds. The most common insect pollinators include honey bees, butterflies, beetles, flies, and wasps.


Parasites are smaller than their hosts and feed on specific insects, unlike predators. An example is the leaf-eating caterpillars.


Decomposers are very ideal in breaking down garden waste into nutrients thus enriching the soil. They include all insects that dwell in soil and those that bore holes in wood.

Spider on his web
Damsel bugsMites, aphids, caterpillars,beetlesSpearmint, Alfalfa
Green lacewingsAphids, mealybugs, leaf hoppersDill, coriander, dandelion
  Predatory mitesSpider mitesMoist environments
ladybugsAphids, mites, whitefly, fleasDandelion, dill
Praying mantisGnats, moths, beetlesShrubs and big grasses
spidersBedbugs, aphids, grasshoppersTall plants and mulch
Aphid midgesaphidsDill, pollen plants
BeetlesSlugs, cutworms, antsAmaranthus, clover
Braconid waspsAphids, caterpillarsDill, parsley


From the above discussion, we all agree that roly polys should be kept in the garden in order to help in decomposition to provide nutrients to the soil.

Keeping in mind that they cause no harm to humans and are children friendly, they are good guys. They transmit no diseases so I would recommend to leave them in your garden but in controlled numbers.


Please share!