Even those of us that can’t stand bugs sometimes have to admit that they do serve vital roles in nature’s balance. And while some bugs’ roles, like that of bees, are pretty well-known, most other bugs don’t really get the recognition they deserve. One such example are the pill bugs, which are very effective at removing heavy metals from the soil (1).
Also known as Rollie Pollies or as wood-lice, pill bugs are not actually insects – they are crustaceans which makes them closer relatives to shrimp and crabs rather than to insects (2).
More importantly, however, pill bugs feed on the dead, organic matter that’s often released into the soil by dead plants and turn it into healthy soil by digesting it. This makes pill bugs an essential part of the life cycle in any garden.
What’s even more unique about these crustaceans is that they are also excellent at removing heavy metals from the soil as well. They do that thanks to the large quantities of microbes they have in them which help them digest whatever they consume.
When pill bugs consume heavy metals like lead and cadmium, they crystallize these ions in their guts. The heavy metal then turns into harmless spherical deposits in the mid gut. So, thanks to their robust digestive system, pill bugs are able to survive in heavily contaminated areas where most creatures can’t.
We should be happy with the pill bugs’ contribution to our gardens and soil. They can be used quite effectively either in our personal properties or at a larger scale to help deal with the pollutants in our soil.