You may think it’s no big deal when you find pill bugs under rocks and logs in your yard, but what about when you find them in your basement, crawlspaces, or even your living room?
Pill bugs may not be as destructive as similar indoor pests, but they are still pesky, and it’s well past time to tell them goodbye. There are many products you can use to take care of pill bugs. Whether you want to use a foam to fill cracks, a more natural essential oil spray, or a powder, you can find something to fit your needs.
Wondering how effective sprays are? Thinking about other ways to pill-bug-proof your house? Read on for our suggestions on how to stop any pill bugs from making your home their home too.
- Pill bugs are nocturnal and typically feed on decaying leaf and plant matter. They are found in cool, humid places.
- Pill bugs do not do damage inside the home, but may need to be controlled if populations are high
- Some pill bugs may feed on garden plants, especially those with fruits and vegetables that touch the ground.
Here’s Why You Might Need To Control Pill Bugs
Pill bugs, sometimes called roly-polys, are interesting insects because, well, they aren’t insects! They’re actually isopods, more closely related to shrimp and lobsters than bugs. Despite this, these creatures are totally terrestrial (land-bound).
Roly Polys are beneficial to have in the garden. They feed on decaying plant material, so they won’t damage your garden plants, and they help clean up leaf litter. In fact, pill bugs have a positive impact on the soil for several reasons:
- Increased nutrients in the soil, including nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium
- Increased pH
- Higher release of carbon from fallen leaves
So, if these lobster-like creatures are so beneficial, why do you need to spray them?
Pill Bugs May Sneak Indoors
One reason you may need to control pill bugs is if they make their way inside your home. This is usually by accident, as pill bugs don’t want to be in your home and can’t find sustainable food sources inside the house.
However, a leaky faucet, dirt, and decaying leaves at the door may attract pill bugs inside. While inside, pill bugs will not damage your home in any way, but they’re not fun to see indoors!
Pill Bugs Occasionally Snack On Garden Plants
A large part of a pill bug’s diet consists of decaying leaf and plant material. They’re known as detritivores and usually have a positive impact on the habitat when they do their normal duties.
Sometimes pill bugs splurge on living plant tissue – this is when they become a pest instead of a beneficial garden dweller. Some of the plants that pill bugs target include:
- Mustard Pea
- Milk Thistle
The University of California tells us that pill bugs can live for 2 to 5 years! So, don’t expect these bugs to just go away on their own – they will keep coming back year after year if a source of food is available.
Pill bugs usually do more good than harm. They are the most pesky when found inside the home or when they feed on living plant tissue. Luckily, there are plenty of sprays and powders that can be used to control pill bugs.
10 Best Products to Control Pill Bugs
1. Ortho Home Defense Spray Foam
Ortho Home Defense Spray is a great option if you need something to work in cracks and gaps fast but do not have time (or are unable) to seal them up completely. It is a foam product that fills empty spaces and then disappears, leaving behind a pill bug barrier.
It also works on other crawling critters like ants, roaches, and spiders.
To use, simply shake the product, then aim it at any holes your worried pill bugs might use to enter your home. Spray from 12 to 18 inches away. You will not need to reapply soon; the product lasts for one to up to 18 months!
2. Mighty Mint Insect and Pest Control Peppermint Oil
Mighty Mint – 16oz Insect and Pest Control Peppermint Oil is a great alternative for people who want a 100% plant-based product. The spray is non-toxic, safe to use around pets and people, and works on a variety of insects.
Even better, it leaves behind a wonderfully refreshing peppermint scent, making it a good option for those who are sensitive to the smell of harsh chemicals.
Peppermint isn’t the only scent that can keep these roly polys away. Check out our article on the scents that pill bugs hate for a complete list.
3. Harris Diatomaceous Earth
Our favorite powder option is Harris Diatomaceous Earth. Made from the ancient remnants of natural algae, you can apply this product anywhere you need a defensive barrier to stop pill bugs in their tracks.
With the provided puffer bottle, you can direct the dust exactly where you need it, whether that’s on the floor, under furniture or appliances, or in a crack or gap in the wall.
4. Zap-a-Roach Boric Acid
Although this product has “Roach” in its name, Zap-a-Roach Boric Acid is effective at taking care of all kinds of insects, including pill bugs. Boric acid does not stain floors or furniture, and it’s odorless, making it a brilliant choice for anyone with a sensitive nose.
To apply, simply spread a thin layer of boric acid anywhere you see pill bugs, and soon your problem will be long gone.
5. GARDENTECH Dust
GARDENTECH Dust (also known as Sevin dust), is applied much like boric acid or diatomaceous earth, with a thin layer dusted anywhere pill bugs might get in.
This product can also be sprinkled safely around plants, so if you notice pill bugs making a home in your petunias, simply sprinkle a layer on the soil at the base of the plant. Sevin dust will last as long as it’s dry, so it will need to be reapplied after you water any houseplants or if it rains.
6. EcoRaider All-Purpose Insect Control
With just a few spritzes of EcoRaider All Purpose Insect Control, you can eliminate any pill bug problems from your life. Derived from plants and all-natural ingredients, EcoRaider contains no pesticides or harsh chemicals and is safe to use around humans and pets (including birds and fish).
Simply apply the spray to any pests (including eggs and larvae), or spray as a perimeter defense around rooms.
7. Raid Essentials
Made from essential oils, Raid Essentials takes care of crawling and flying insects with one quick squirt from the nozzle. With its non-toxic ingredients, it’s safe to use around pets and kids. It is also effective even when used to target pests hiding in hard-to-reach places.
8. Wondercide Indoor Pest Control Spray
Wondercide Indoor Pest Control Spray works in two different ways to help control your pill bug issues. First, it can be used for prevention, to discourage any crawling bugs from entering your home. Next, it can help treat, by taking care of bugs that are already present.
Best of all, it’s pet-safe and can even treat flea infestations your four-legged friends might have walked in. To use, spray as a protective barrier around gaps and cracks or apply directly to insects. Reapply to your home up to several times a week, as needed.
9. Spectracide Bug Stop Home Barrier Spray
Interested in a spray to protect your home indoors and outdoors? Spectracide Bug Stop Home Barrier Spray is specifically designed to get bugs out and stop them from coming in again. Spectracide works for up to 12 months of protection, all with a non-oily and non-staining formula.
10. Bayer Suspend
With a clear formula that will not stain furniture or floors on contact, Bayer Suspend provides long-term control of pill bugs and 49 other types of pests. You can dilute it and use it effectively at low concentrations.
It is the only product on our list you can safely apply to mattresses and carpet. Simply combine Bayer Suspend with equal parts water, place into a spray bottle or handheld sprayer, and apply a thin coating to each surface you want to treat.
Where Should You Apply Pill Bug Sprays And Powders Outdoors?
Now that we know the best types of sprays and powders to use against pill bugs, let’s discuss what areas to target around the yard and garden. Before using any product, always read the label for directions.
A year with heavy rain can produce an explosion in the pill bug population. It’s during these types of wet seasons that pill bugs can become a problem in the garden. They will feed on your garden plants and can eat a new sprout down to the ground overnight.
Target your sprays on the plants mentioned above and any other vegetables or fruits that touch the ground. Pill bugs aren’t likely to travel far above the soil, so plants like corn and peppers are probably safe. Before using a product, make sure it’s okay to use it on vegetable and fruit plants that will be consumed.
Leaf Litter & Mulch
When targeting areas outdoors, leaf litter and mulch are bound to contain pill bugs. These areas are moist, cool, and dark, providing pill bugs with the perfect environment to hide during the day. These areas also often provide pill bugs with a source of food.
In addition to using sprays and powders in these areas, consider raking up fallen leaves and disposing of them. This way, you are removing sources of shelter for pill bugs.
Debris That Touches The Ground
Think of anywhere that is dark, moist, and humid around your yard. Maybe it’s a pile of grass clippings you forgot about or a stack of bricks under the porch. These are havens for pill bugs and should be treated with sprays or powders.
Removing these hiding places is an additional step you can take to keep pill bugs out of your home and yard. If pill bugs can’t find a wet and humid place to stay during the day, they will dry up or move on to somewhere else.
Pill bugs may occasionally find their way into compost piles. Areas that are in direct sunlight probably will not have pill bugs. Instead, target the cooler areas of the pile that sit in the shade.
Compost piles are a source of food for pill bugs because of the decaying material. It’s not unheard of to find huge populations of pill bugs crawling around compost piles as they feed on decaying plant material, leaves, and grass clippings.
Check your potted plants for signs of pill bugs. These rolling creatures may be hiding within the soil or near any water trays. The rich organic soil in potted plants attracts pill bugs, as does the water that may sit in trays beneath potted plants.
You can read more about removing pill bugs from potted plants here.
Where Should You Apply Pill Bug Sprays And Powders Indoors?
When pill bugs get inside the home, you don’t need to worry about them damaging anything inside. These pests are likely inside by accident and would much rather be rolling around outside in your garden or mulch pile.
The entrance to our homes often gets mucked up with mud, leaves, and other debris from the bottom of our shoes. Sometimes, we can pick up pill bugs in the tread of our shoes and bring them inside.
Target all entrances into the home by spraying around the bottom edge of doorways. Pill bugs will not crawl up the side of your home and try to get in through the window or the upper part of the doorway, so there is no need to treat these areas.
In search of water, pill bugs might make their way into bathrooms, especially basement bathrooms. Check along the baseboards and under the sink. If you find pill bugs in the bathroom, target your sprays and powders at the doorway entrance, along baseboards, and under the sink.
Likewise, check the laundry room for pill bugs. Laundry rooms are usually humid and wet from the dryer and can attract pill bugs.
How To Keep Pill Bugs Out Of The House
If it’s been a rainy year and you’re noticing a lot of pill bugs making their way inside, you may be looking for a solution to keep them out. Besides sprays and powders, there are a few things you can do to ensure roly polys stay outside.
The most likely way a pill bug will enter the home is through the front door. Bold, right? These isopods usually come inside by accident and can be swept up and thrown back outside.
To prevent pill bugs from entering through the doorway, make sure to seal any cracks or gaps that may permit roly polys inside. Door sweeps work great to seal the gap beneath doors. M-D Building Products 36-Inch Commercial Grade Door Sweep works on most doors.
As we mentioned previously, pill bugs won’t normally crawl up the sides of doorways, so targeting the bottom is your best bet to keep these land-bound crustaceans out.
We mentioned that pill bugs target decaying plant matter for food and hiding spots. Eliminating these items from your yard will discourage pill bugs from living in your yard and, therefore, sneaking into your home.
Clean up leaf piles, keep your compost piles in a container with a lid, and avoid piling mulch higher than two inches. Aeration is very important to help keep your yard dry enough to repel pill bugs but not dry enough to hurt your plants.
Here are some other ways to remove pill bug attractants from the yard:
|Location in Yard
|Ways to Repel Pill Bugs
|Under rocks and logs
|Improve drainage, remove excess moisture, use gravel or mulch instead of soil, keep the area well-ventilated, apply a natural repellent spray.
|Moist, damp areas
|Remove decaying plant matter, keep the area clean and tidy, use a salt barrier, and apply a garlic spray.
|Around decaying plant matter
|Improve drainage, remove excess moisture, use gravel or mulch instead of soil, keep the area well-ventilated, and apply a natural repellent spray.
Avoid Irrigation Near Openings
When you water your plants and lawn, avoid getting the water too close to your home’s foundation. This will encourage pill bugs to move closer to the home, making it more likely that they’ll crawl inside.
If you must water plants near your home or an entranceway, do it early in the morning. This way, by the time evening rolls around and pill bugs become active, the area should be dry.
Call A Professional
Pill bugs rarely cause huge problems in the home. However, if their populations are high due to the rainy season, you may need to reach out to a pest specialist to figure out how to control these tiny pests.
Our nationwide pest control finder can help you connect with a local pest control specialist in your area.
Pill bugs often live in vegetation near home foundations and can easily find their way indoors in search of moisture or food.
The good news? Unlike other pests, pill bugs do not cause damage to structures. The bad? These tiny crustaceans will continue to invade your home unless you take measures to stop them.
With the use of a variety of sprays and powders, you can easily eliminate your pill bug problem and stop it for good.
- Powders may be best for a widespread preventative barrier.
- Foam spray can successfully treat even wide gaps and holes.
- Barrier sprays or essential oil-based products are great at treating room perimeters to keep pill bugs out long-term.
Whatever product you decide to go with, always wear appropriate protective gear, read labels carefully, and apply products only in their intended manner. With proper application and careful attention to your spaces, you can enjoy a pill bug-free home for a long time!
Houseman, R. M. (2007). Sowbugs, pillbugs, millipedes and centipedes (2007). Home and garden.
Johnson, W. A., Alfaress, S., Whitworth, R. J., & McCornack, B. P. (2013). Integrated pest management strategies for pillbug (Isopoda: Armadillidiidae) in soybean. Crop Management, 12(1), 1-10.
Nair, G. A., & Fadiel, M. M. (1991). The feeding and conversion of leaf litter by the pillbug Armadillo officinalis (Isopoda, Oniscidea). Arid Land Research and Management, 5(3), 167-174.
Raham, G. (1986). Pill bug biology: A spider’s spinach, but a biologist’s delight. The American Biology Teacher, 48(1), 9-16.
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