Pillbugs in the Potato Grow Bag. Oh, My!

Armored bodies scurry across the soil of my potato grow bag on 14 legs.  Not just one body.  Or two.

Or three.

There are many of them.  Tiny babies, half the size of the mature form.

Pillbugs.

Pill bugs

Obviously, that picture didn't come from the potato grow bag.  Sadly, due to color similarities, the pillbugs kept blending in with the soil, so this was the best I could do, unless I wanted to tease you with a game of Where's Waldo: garden style. 

I took this picture looking down on a cooler.

Yesterday, I talked about the ants that had overrun one of the stems on my potato grow bag.  This, I believe, is due to the fact that I wasn't giving the potatoes nearly enough water, which was very surprising to me, because I didn't neglect the grow bag.  Sure enough, though, when I checked the soil, it was drier than I'd like it to be.

There were also pillbugs.  Now, there weren't nearly as many as I had found in the cinder blocks that I turned into a cinder block garden, but there were still enough of them to cause me some concern.  I worried that my potato grow bag may be a failed endeavor.

So I did a bit of research into pill bugs.

I already knew a small amount about them.  For instance, pillbugs aren't really bugs... they're crustaceans, just like crabs, shrimp, and lobster.  Don't try to eat them, though... evidently, they taste like pee.  I watched a documentary a few years ago in which a student fried them up and ate a bit.  Not exactly a four star meal.

I needed to learn more, though.  While the knowledge that pillbugs taste like pee is amusing, it's hardly relevant to the problem at hand.

What I did find that was helpful was a description of pillbugs from Northern State University.

Pillbugs are attracted to decaying plant matter.  This is why you'll find them under piles of leaves after it rains.  Since I mulch my potato grow bag with fresh cut grass, in order to give it a fertilizer boost, this makes perfect sense.

It's no reason to be alarmed, either.  Unless there is a huge pillbug population, any mature plant will be left unharmed.  Seedlings could be destroyed, but something like my potato plants is perfectly safe.  Pillbugs are a sign of healthy soil.  Yay!

The information from NSU taught me an additional benefit to pillbugs that I never would have known from simple observation.

"They are capable of taking in heavy metals such as copper, zinc, lead and cadmium and crystallize these out as spherical deposits in the midgut."

Translation:  They eat heavy metals and poop them out, thereby helping rid the soil of contaminants.

Sweet!!!

These guys are helpful, rather than harmful.  They've been used to clean sites that have been seemingly destroyed by mining and mineral waste.  This process of theirs also removes contaminants that would otherwise end up in the water table.  How cool is that?

Mother nature at work, making our world a little greener.

In conclusion, pillbugs are awesome... except as lunch.  That's just gross.

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