Isopods The Friendly Decomposers: Love them or hate them, roly-polies are part of your garden. But don’t worry, they aren’t the bogeyman most people imagine. It turns out that the common roly-poly, Armadillidium vulgaris is a decomposer and can actually be quite helpful, especially in suburban gardening.
Roly-polies eat decaying material and prefer to stay in dark damp areas below or at the surface. Armadillidium are crustaceans in the order Isopoda and have more in common with shrimp than insects (but probably don’t grill as well). They use gills to breathe and must have moisture to live. Roly-polies love wet leaves and cardboard and are commonly seen wherever compost piles exist. As they eat organic material, they provide organic waste that is high in nutrients and super good for plants. We actually plan to sell the nutrient-rich poop from roly-polies as a garden supplement – it’s that good.
Roly polies are known to tolerate high levels of toxins and remove heavy metals from the soil by ingestion. The toxic materials are crystallized and stored in the animal’s gut. They can live about two years, so that’s enough time to devise a way to get the contaminated dead bugs out of your garden. Probably not long enough to ponder why you decided to garden in soil that was contaminated with toxic metals, but what are you gonna do?
Of course, since everything at Ficarro Farms is organic, we don’t need to worry about toxic soil, heavy metals, or dangerous roly polies. We just focus on the natural systems that cooperate in making our tiny space a paradise on earth for us. And, roly polies are certainly a strong part of that.
So, when you see a roly poly trekking through your yard, don’t be grossed out. Have some respect for one of the coolest garden helpers around.
To learn how to care for your isopod friends, click here.