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Monday, 17 November 2014

Painted Woodlouse - Porcellio spinicornis Gordon Jackson

  by  Gordon Jackson

A woodlouse was sheltering on our wall by the door this morning; it was too good a chance to miss. They are really quite interesting little creatures.

The woodlouse it is not an insect but a crustacean. It has 14 parts to its body. There are thought to be over 3,000 different species of woodlouse around the world. They are found in nearly every environment in the world including the Polar Regions and the desert.

Woodlice feed on decaying leaf and plant matter on the forest floor, playing a vital role in the natural carbon dioxide cycle. It is about 1 cm long but many species in the tropics are three times that size, some even bigger. They have an average lifespan of about 2 years but some are known to live to 4 years old. Toads, centipedes, spiders, millipedes and the sometimes wasps are the main predators of the woodlouse.

Woodlice have a shell-like exoskeleton which they shed as they grow. They moult in two stages; the back half comes off first, followed two or three days later by the front. Despite being crustaceans like lobsters or crabs, woodlice are said to have an unpleasant taste similar to "strong urine". Who the hell decided to eat one is beyond me. UGH!

Like earthworms, they're generally considered beneficial in gardens as they play a part in producing compost and turning over the soil. However, they sometimes feed on plants such as ripening strawberries and seedlings.

Woodlice can also invade homes in large numbers seeking moisture. Their presence can indicate dampness problems. Generally they are not seen as a serious household pest as they don't spread disease or damage sound wood or structures.

The woodlouse is known by many common names throughout the English-speaking world, here are a few of them, but there are many more; "Peter bug, armadillo bug, (Newfoundland) cheesy bug, (Parts of Kent) chiggy pig, (Devon) gramersow (Cornwall) slater (Scotland, N. Ireland). I think chiggy pig is a wonderful name for them.

A lot of people don't like them, hopefully, this article may help to change a few minds.

Painted Woodlouse - Porcellio spinicornis    

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