Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Armadillidiidae. Pill bugs, for short

I like that word, Armadillidiidae. Step back and take a look at it. It kind of looks like a pillbug, on its back, with the legs waving in the air.

Digging through the mulch, checking to see if my perennials are starting up, I came across three shiny black balls. I collected them and brought them inside. On my desk, they immediately unrolled themselves and started running. Pillbugs.

Armadillidium vulgare

I have at least two different species of their relatives, the sow bugs or woodlice, in my garden, but I hadn't seen these here before. Nor had I seen any, anywhere, so big. The largest of the three was well over 1/2 an inch long. The woodlice that I collect for my spider are half that, at most.

Woodlice (Oniscidea sp.) and pill bugs (Armadillidiidae sp.) are isopods (meaning same or equal feet), and look almost alike, but only the Armadillidiidae roll up into a ball. And the A. vulgare makes a nice, tight, perfectly spherical ball; not all Armadillididae do. (Sorry. I just like that word.)


These guys ran fast, and pushed aside even plastic lids meant to contain them. They're like little tanks. I photographed this one inside a jewelry tin that I have fixed up with a non-slip bottom.

Trying to escape.

It has two long antennae, and two short, stubby ones that you can see in this photo. The eyes are behind these and to the sides.

Seven thoracic segments, head and abdomen (the tail end). Seven pairs of legs. Nicely sculpted armor-plating.

On its back, legs waving.

I finally put them into the spider's bottle. She tried to tie them up, but they kept breaking her web; too sturdy, too well protected. Eventually, they died, probably because it's too dry in there. They need moisture to be able to breathe.

The next ones I find go back to the garden after a brief, damp photo session.



  1. Anonymous6:14 am

    Oh yeah. Armadillidiidae. I like the way it rolls (sorry) off your tongue. It almost (but doesn't quite) surpasses my favourite specific name, the winter wren Troglodytes troglodytes

  2. Nice macro shots! At first, I thought it was some prehistoric giants come alive!

  3. OK It probalby is a cool word but I have no idea how to pronouce it.
    I have to chuckle when I read of you and your spider. Not many people I know would tolerate a spider nearby let alone feed it...
    You are so cool!
    Did the spider have any interest in the hard Pill Bug?

  4. Anonymous6:32 am

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  5. Clare; *groan* Re troglodytes; odd name for a wren; it means "cave dweller", and often refers to a mythical monster. So I had to look up the T.t. And it is a communal cavity dweller, at least in cold weather.

    PSYL; "prehistoric giants"! Yes, I can see that.

    Dawn; I can't really pronounce it, either. It's almost a tongue twister.
    Yes, the spider was trying hard to get at these pillbugs for a while, but she just couln't get at the soft underbelly. She finally gave up.

    Juliana; Nice to see you here. But I'm sorry; your comment includes a link to a non-related, possibly commercial site. Can you please edit your comment to remove the link? Otherwise, I will be forced to delete the comment, since Blogger does not permit me to edit it, and I am very careful about spam. Thank you.

  6. Anonymous9:54 am

    Cool photos and nice writeup. Yes, I like saying "Armadillidiidae", too - almost like a song. Try this - ARM-uh-DILL-i-DIE-i-dee.

  7. Thanks, Ted. That helps.

    What always confuses me is that double "i". It makes sense to pronounce it as you have it, with one a long "i", and the other short.

    I work out in my own head ways to pronounce these words, then Laurie comes out with a different pronunciation. He's wrong about half the time, I figure, but which half?

    Just one of the problems of reading more words than we ever hear spoken.

  8. Anonymous6:46 pm

    I get a kick out of scientific name pronunciation - I'm sort of a weird bird that way. Family names are easy once you get the ending is always pronounced "EYE-i-dee".

    btw - nice site, I've not had the chance to poke around here before. You seem to frequent many of the same stops I do.

    best regards--ted


I'm having to moderate all comments because Blogger seems to have a problem notifying me. Sorry about that. I will review them several times daily, though, until this issue is fixed.

Also, I have word verification on, because I found out that not only do I get spam without it, but it gets passed on to anyone commenting in that thread. Not cool!