Woodlice Biodiversity: A Complete Guide

Welcome to our complete guide on the biodiversity of woodlice. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of woodlice and explore their ecological significance, diverse species, habitats, and intriguing behaviours. This article will provide you with a wealth of knowledge and help you appreciate the vital role woodlice play in our ecosystems.

woodlice in the garden

The Importance of Woodlice in Biodiversity Conservation

Woodlice, also known as sowbugs or pillbugs, belong to the Isopoda order and are part of the diverse arthropod family. These small creatures play a crucial role in maintaining healthy ecosystems and contribute significantly to biodiversity. Understanding their ecological significance is key to appreciating their presence and conserving their habitats.


Nutrient Cycling and Decomposition

Woodlice are integral to the decomposition process in ecosystems. They feed on decaying organic matter, such as dead plant material, fungi, and leaf litter. By breaking down these materials, woodlice contribute to nutrient cycling, releasing essential elements back into the soil and making them available to other organisms. This vital process enriches the soil and supports the growth of plants, fungi, and other decomposers.


Food Source for Predators

Woodlice serve as a valuable food source for a variety of predators, such as spiders, birds (including chickens), amphibians, and small mammals.

Their abundance in certain habitats attracts and sustains these predators, forming a vital link in the food chain. The presence of woodlice in an ecosystem indicates a healthy and balanced environment.

Woodlice Species: A Diverse Group

Woodlice encompass a vast array of species, each with unique characteristics and adaptations. Let’s explore some of the most common and intriguing species found across the globe:


1. Common Woodlouse (Oniscus asellus)

The Common Woodlouse, also known as the Common Shiny Woodlouse, is one of the most widespread species. It possesses a glossy, oval-shaped exoskeleton with distinct patterns. These woodlice typically reside in damp environments, such as gardens, forests, and cellars, where they feed on decaying organic matter.


2. Porcellio scaber

Porcellio scaber, commonly referred to as the Rough Woodlouse, is another prevalent species found in various habitats, including gardens, parks, and woodlands. They have a rough, textured exoskeleton that provides protection against desiccation and predators.


3. Armadillidium vulgare

Armadillidium vulgare, commonly known as the Common Pillbug or Roly-Poly, is characterized by its ability to roll into a tight ball when threatened. This defensive mechanism offers protection against predators. These woodlice are often found in damp habitats, such as gardens, compost heaps, and leaf litter.

chicken eating woodlice

Woodlice Habitats and Distribution

Woodlice can be found in a wide range of habitats worldwide, spanning from forests and grasslands to urban environments. Their adaptability allows them to thrive in both terrestrial and semi-aquatic ecosystems. Here are some common habitats where woodlice are frequently encountered:


Woodlands and Forests

Woodlice are commonly found in woodlands and forests, where the abundance of leaf litter and decaying organic matter provides an ideal food source. Fallen logs, tree stumps, and damp soil create suitable microhabitats for these crustaceans.


Gardens and Urban Areas

Woodlice are also prevalent in gardens, parks, and other urban green spaces. The presence of organic debris, such as mulch and compost, provides them with ample food sources. They can be observed in damp areas, under plant pots, and in dark corners of garden structures.


Cave Systems and Crevices

Certain woodlice species have adapted to subterranean environments, including cave systems and crevices. These habitats offer stable humidity levels and an abundant supply of decaying organic matter, allowing woodlice to thrive in these unique ecosystems.

Woodlice - habitat

Woodlice Behaviours and Adaptations

Woodlice exhibit a variety of intriguing behaviours and possess remarkable adaptations that contribute to their survival and success in their respective habitats. Let’s explore some notable behaviours and adaptations displayed by these fascinating creatures:


1. Phototaxis and Thigmotaxis

Woodlice are negatively phototactic, meaning they are averse to light and prefer dark, sheltered areas. They display positive thigmotaxis, seeking contact with surfaces to maintain moisture levels and protect themselves from desiccation.


2. Response to Moisture

Woodlice are highly sensitive to moisture levels. They exhibit hygrokinesis, adjusting their speed of movement in response to changes in humidity. This behaviour helps them regulate water loss and ensures their survival in different environments.


3. Defensive Mechanisms

To defend themselves against predators, woodlice have evolved various strategies. Some species, like the Common Pillbug, can roll into a tight ball, protecting their soft ventral side within their armored exoskeleton. Others may release defensive secretions that deter or repel potential threats.

How to reduce the population of woodlice in your garden: 

To reduce the population of woodlice in your garden using organic and ecological methods, you can try the following approaches:


  1. Remove hiding places: Woodlice often hide in moist and decaying organic matter. Clear away any debris, leaf litter, or decaying plant material where they might reside.

  2. Adjust watering: Woodlice are attracted to damp environments. Avoid overwatering your garden and allow the soil to dry out slightly between watering sessions.

  3. Increase ventilation: Improve air circulation by pruning dense vegetation or rearranging plants. This helps to create a less favourable environment for woodlice.

  4. Natural barriers: Create physical barriers around vulnerable plants using materials like crushed eggshells, diatomaceous earth, or copper tape. These substances can deter woodlice from reaching your plants.

  5. Companion planting: Cultivate plants that naturally repel woodlice. Some examples include lavender, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Interplanting these species with your vulnerable plants can help discourage woodlice.

  6. Predatory insects: Encourage beneficial insects like ground beetles, centipedes, and spiders, which are natural predators of woodlice. Provide suitable habitats like rock piles or small insect houses to attract them.  

  7. Traps: Set up simple traps to capture woodlice. Place damp newspaper or cardboard near affected areas, and check them in the morning to remove the collected woodlice.

  8. Natural repellents: Use natural repellents like garlic or neem oil. Dilute them according to the instructions and spray them on affected plants or areas where woodlice are present.

  9. Soil improvement: Ensure proper soil drainage and quality by adding organic matter like compost. Well-drained soil is less favourable for woodlice to thrive.

  10. Regular garden maintenance: Regularly inspect and maintain your garden to identify and address any woodlice infestations promptly. Early intervention can prevent population growth.

Remember that woodlice play beneficial roles in ecosystems, such as breaking down organic matter. So, it’s important to strike a balance and aim for population reduction rather than complete eradication. 



Woodlice, with their vital role in nutrient cycling, decomposition, and their diverse array of species and intriguing behaviours, are an integral part of Earth’s biodiversity. By understanding and appreciating these fascinating creatures, we can foster conservation efforts and ensure the preservation of their habitats. Next time you encounter a woodlouse, take a moment to observe and appreciate the hidden world within this tiny crustacean.


Remember, appreciating and conserving biodiversity extends beyond woodlice alone. It encompasses the entire ecosystem and the countless organisms that contribute to its harmony and balance. Let us cherish and protect the remarkable diversity of life that surrounds us.

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