Pill bugs – also known as woodlice, sowbugs, and “Rolly Pollies” – aren’t actually bugs. They are a form of crustacean, which means that they breathe through their gills.
This is why they must remain wet as often as possible, although they can’t survive underwater. Since they prefer such moist and dark environments, they’re drawn to potted plants and the soil and matter housed there.
This is why your potted plants may quickly draw in pesky quantities of these creatures. There are some natural ways to repel them, though.
You can minimize excess plant waste and supplement the soil with natural substances they don’t like.In this article, we’ll explore the following topics regarding how to naturally get rid of pill bugs in potted plants:
- What are natural methods of repelling pill bugs in potted plants?
- Do coffee grounds repel pill bugs?
- Will vinegar repel pill bugs?
- Does essential oil get rid of pill bugs?
- What environments do pill bugs hate?
What are some natural ways to repel pill bugs in potted plants?
There are several effective ways to naturally repel pill bugs from your potting soil.
Supplement the Pot with Small Rocks or Pebbles
One method is to place rocks or small pebbles at the bottom of your plant pot, beneath the soil. Or, you could place the rocks on the top layer of potting soil, where pill bugs are likely to enter.
This will naturally deter the bugs since they require a more moist, soft setting. Just make sure the rocks are small, as pill bugs tend to take shelter under larger rocks.
Dehumidify Your Home
If you’re tending to potted houseplants, this method may work for you. Depending on where you live, humidity will differ.
For example, the average humidity in Alabama is 84% in the morning, while it’s only 53% in the morning in Arizona.
And if you don’t have good insulation on your home or keep your windows cracked, humidity will seep in.
Since woodlice prefer moist environments to accommodate their gill-breathing, you can eliminate some environmental moisture with a room dehumidifier.
Create a Drink Trap
Another effective method is to create a liquid trap with beer. Keep in mind that this isn’t the most harmless pest remover since it will lead to dead pill bugs.
However, it works effectively and quickly if you’re on a budget.
Simply make an indentation in the potting soil so that a small plastic container will fit inside. Push the container down so that its edges aren’t sticking out of the soil surface.
Fill the container with beer, and wait for the pill bugs to get lured in. They won’t be able to swimand will get stuck in the container and drown.
Eliminate Their Food Sources
You can also try getting rid of substances that these bugs consider food. They may still get drawn to your potted plants, but if they have no sustenance, they’ll have to leave.
Depending on what type of plant is in the pot, pill bugs may or may not stay away entirely. If plant leaves are soft enough, pill bugs may try to eat them.
Otherwise, you can try removing dead leaves, rotting plant matter, and/or fungi that exist in your potted plant.
Pill bugs get drawn to these for food. Therefore, you should regularly trim and remove dead matter from your plant.
Don’t Use Mulch in Your Potted Plants
Although it’s not too common to put mulch on top of indoor plants, it’s sometimes used to retain moisture.
But mulch can easily turn into rotting wood in a potted plant. This moist, decaying matter will draw in pill bugs for food.
So, avoid mulching your potted plants if you can help it. This is an especially good tip for outdoor potted plants, such as garden pots for growing vegetables.
Use Potato Cuttings to Trap Them
You may have heard one more alternate nickname for pill bugs – potato bugs. Well, there’s a logical reason behind this nickname; the bugs are actually attracted to potatoes.
The wet, starchy substance in potatoes attracts these herbivorous bugs.
Therefore, you can leave potato cuttings, cut-side down, in your plant pot’s soil. After a day or two, any potato bugs already in the pot will have gathered near or under the cutting.
This is a more eco-friendly/ethical method since it allows you to find and safely remove the bugs. It’s also super cost-effective since you can use your potato scraps instead of throwing them down the disposal.
And as an added benefit, potato scraps can add nutrients like potassium to your soil. The only caution is not to leave potato scraps in a potted plant too long.
These scraps can cause blight (mildew) that starts in the soil and spreads to your plant.
Use Neem Oil as a Natural Pesticide
You might even consider using neem oil (vegetable oil from the neem plant) – a commonly used natural plant pesticide.
This organic substance thwarts insect infestations in soil by repelling them and messing up their ability to breed.
You can sprinkle the oil or a powder form of it in your potted plant soil for protection. There are also some other advantages of this method, including its ability to act as a natural fungicide.
Neem oil may also help reduce powdery mildew, leaf spot, black spot, and other diseases on a plant.
Will coffee grounds keep pill bugs away from potted plants?
Gardeners commonly turn to substances like used coffee grounds as natural plant modifiers. However, there is debate around the effectiveness of using grounds in soil.
People mostly use coffee grounds as ant and fruit fly deterrents within soil. However, you could also use them as a pill bug deterrent.
Scattering used grounds on the soil surrounding the potted plant is both a cheap and resourceful method.
Coffee grounds won’t kill the pill bugs, but they might repel them due to their sharp and grainy texture. The caffeine content in coffee grounds may also repel these pesky bugs.
Will vinegar repel pill bugs from my potted plants?
Vinegar won’t really repel pill bugs, so much as it works to trap them. Similar to the beer trap method mentioned above, a vinegar trap may effectively lure in and decimate pill bug infestations.
Again, you can push a small plastic container down into the soil so it is level with the surface. Pour apple cider vinegar or regular vinegar into the container.
Wait a day or so for the pill bugs to collect in the container, where they will drown. Then, you can remove a bunch of them at once.
It’s another cost-effective method. The only caution with this method is to be careful not to spill vinegar into the soil itself. Vinegar can greatly alter the pH level of soil, which may damage or even kill your plant.
Do essential oils get rid of pill bugs in potted plants?
Essential oils are another natural approach to warding off potted plant pests. Although they aren’t as commonly used in plant care, they can be effective.
Most notably, peppermint, cinnamon, oregano, tea tree, and eucalyptus oil are effective at deterring pill bug infestations.
To keep the pesticide natural, you should find organic, wholly natural essential oil products. You can mix them with water to dilute and spray them directly on the plant and soil.
They will deter pill bugs that are present in the potted plant, as well as new ones that venture in.
The pro of this method is the fact that essential oils are safe for humans and plants to be around. The one downside to this method is that it’s going to be more expensive than using, say, a potato trap.
What environments do pill bugs hate in plant pots?
You can also ward off pill bugs by taking note of their chosen environment. By creating an environment that’s less conducive to their life and breeding, you can naturally keep them at bay.
For example, pill bugs prefer wet, moisture-rich environments but not standing water. They also gravitate towards environments where there are plenty of places to hide and stay in minimal light.
This is why damp mulch and overwatered or moisture-rich potted plants tend to draw in pill bugs. They also flock to roots and large rocks for wet, shady coverage.
By eliminating hideout spots in the pot and avoiding overwatering, you make the environment less inviting to pill bugs.
It also may help to get an indoor grow lamp to supplement light for your potted plant. Pill bugs like dark environments, so doing so will make the pot a less ideal option for camping out.
Pill bugs can quickly take over potted plants due to the inviting nature of the wet soil. However, it’s easy to naturally deter them with liquid traps, neem oil, and environmental changes.
Make sure to consider how certain methods will affect the quality of your plant soil before using them.
Alright, that’s it for this article, here are a few hand-selected articles that you might also find interesting reads:
Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page https://schoolofbugs.com/about-steve-foster/
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