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Use semi-rotten veggies to eat away at pillbugs

Question: I have voracious pillbugs eating my tomato plants, starting at the stalk at ground level.  These are the bugs that resemble armadillos and can roll themselves into a ball. Is there anything I can do to protect the plants or get rid of the bugs?

If they roll into a ball, they are considered pillbugs. The pillbugs or sowbugs, even though they help in the decomposition of dead plants into organic matter, will damage soft fruit and other soft plants — particularly if there are large numbers. 

They like to congregate under boards, cardboard, rocks and other flat surfaces that stay moist and have plenty of air.  Sometimes you can lay out boards or cardboard and let them congregate under the surfaces and then scoop them up and get rid of them. 

You also can put out semi-rotten tomatoes or other vegetables that will act as magnets and attract these varmints. Then you can scoop up these rotting fruits and vegetables along with the pillbugs and dispose of them. That won’t get rid of them, but it will take the numbers down. 

You can protect the plants with cardboard collars such as the inside tubes in toilet tissue. Spray the soil surface around young plants with pyrethrum or dust with diatomaceous earth.

Bob Morris is an associate professor with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. He can be reached at morrisr@unce.unr.edu or 257-5555.

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