Pillbug Control

Pillbugs, rolly-pollies, sowbugs, woodlice, potato bugs, we’re all familiar with those “cute little bugs” that roll up into an armadillo like ball when threatened. But they’re not so cute when they get into your garden and eat the plants and vegetables you’ve worked so hard to grow. In fact, they are not even classified as insects or “bugs” but as crustaceans, just like lobsters, crabs, and shrimp.

A little bowl of hot melted butter or cocktail sauce probably won’t do very much to keep pillbugs out of your garden, but surprisingly, a cold bottle of beer just might do the trick.

Preventative Measures
Before having to worry about getting pillbugs out of your garden, it’s a lot easier to keep them from getting in to begin with. Pillbugs are omnivores, or scavengers, that feed on dead or decaying plants or animals as well as live plants, fruits, and vegetables. They live in moist shady places, so make it a habit to clean leaf litter out of your garden regularly.

Get Rid of Them

What You'll Need
A bottle of beer, it doesn’t really have to be cold. Other fluids or beverages will not work. A few empty tuna cans that have been washed out.
Place the Cans
Determine which areas of your garden have a pillbug problem. In those areas, make a little hole in the soil that is the same size as an empty tuna can. Place an empty tuna can in the hole so that the top of the can is even with the soil level, kind of like a little in-ground pillbug pool.
Fill’er Up
Poor beer into each empty tuna can until it is not quite full.
Lifeguard Not on Duty
That’s it. Over the next few days, pillbugs that are in that area of the garden will be drawn to the beer, fall in the can, and drown.
The Results
Just empty the cans out regularly and refill with fresh beer.

19 thoughts on “Pillbug Control”

  1. Glad to see this advice. I’ve lost several plants to pillbugs and had no idea what to do about them. I’ve used this same method on slugs with some success, but would never have thought to use it on pillbugs!

    1. Flat Tire is the cheapest beer in the area?? That stuff is kinda decent (and expensive) where I come from (Michigan). Try PBR, Miller High-Life, Red Dog, Milwaukee’s Best, etc…. ya know, what underage college kids drink 😉

      Just installed my PBR beer traps tonight using the bottom of (what else) PBR cans. Hopefully these little prehistoric crustaceous al-Qaeda members will meet their doom and leave my brussle sprout younglings alone.

  2. Save the beer unless you want an excuse to open one.. 😉

    I used the tuna can with reminants of tuna around the edges, filled with water and they come running to their death.

    1. Thanks for the comment Jeanette. I would imagine that it is the bits of tuna around the can edges that attract the pill bugs. Just be aware that the tuna may well attract other unwanted insects or animals to the garden. Keep us posted and happy pill bug hunting!

  3. Did this last night… used the bottom of some PBR cans and fresh PBR and… BLAMMO! caught a few pillbugs and a LOAD of slugs. Turns out the main culprits were these slick foot-stomach freaks. I’ll be my monkey’s uncle if this can-in-the-dirt-with-beer didn’t work really effectively.

    My garden is right next to my porch, so there is no way to prevent these slugs and pillbugs from having great habitat directly next door. I will try some water next time too… although this did give me an excuse to crack a beer on a Monday night (right Jeannette?).

  4. Why waste the beer? I use active dry yeast. Just mix with warm water and let sit for 15 minutes. Pour into a straight walled container and place in the garden as above.

    If the container is deep enough, you only have to change the liquid every few days.

  5. It works but the ducks work better in the garden for slugs it is worth borrowing a duck or two for a few days to rid the garden of pests.

  6. I tried the beer trick in my flower bed. The pill bugs were eating up the leaves of my flowers and we were astounded at the success of it. We caught hundreds of them, seriously. Now, my vegetable garden is getting eaten up by them and I just planted the raised garden 6 days ago. We have had tremendous amounts of rain so the ground is saturated. Should I remove the mulch for a while?

  7. Gonna try it, just realized tonight I have probably thousands in my garden. I have a big garden, not sure where or if they are centralized. Got strawberries and other things too….plenty of weeds and dead material.

  8. I’m going to try the beer trick as well. I live in missouri and started my plants relatively early so I covered the roots with straw. It has not stopped raining for the past month(holy crap!) and noticed this weekend that there were hundreds of these things in my garden. I removed all of the straw and other debris so hopefully they will follow it to where I piled it up. Lol. They were devastating my radishes. Also my green beans look terrible, the leaves are curled up at the edges. They seem to be growing but wondered if the pill bugs had something to do with this or maybe the excess of rain lately?
    Also, some help on another somewhat related subject would be appreciated, as previously stated, I put straw on top of the soil over the roots of my tomatoes and peppers to keep them warm since I planted early. (Gambled last year and got away with it too. One of these days I wont. Lol) anyway, I must’ve got some really fresh straw because it sprouted wheat all over my garden. I wanted to get walls of water instead but couldn’t justify the cost. $20 for 3 of them. I would need approx 70 of them. Gonna get worse as I have plans to expand my beds. So…. My question, does anybody have ideas on how to make walls of water at home?
    Thank you

  9. Trying this today. 🙂 Hubby had some sacrificial beer for me. Have a nice garden this year. First time I’ve seen the pill bugs eating my plants.

  10. I was aware of this process before for snails, and found hand removal for them faster (very early in the morning with a miners hat style light on, daily, while getting the morning newspaper). Now just started 4 containers in another area for pill bugs. Beer most certainly attracts the pill bugs, but they become rail bugs and only venture into the pool with some finger persuasion. Then the rest scatter. I would like to somehow upgrade just a little. Does anyone know, is yeast the tease? I am going to try some yeast in water and test but would appreciate any thoughts. Thanks.

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