You can find these creatures if you turn over a log, a boulder, or even a flowerpot in your garden. These creatures are none other than the common woodlice, also called the roly-poly, the cheesy-bug, the chiggy pig, or the bibble bug.
The little creatures hate light and will disappear if exposed to it since they associate light with darkness. Both woodlice and what you would consider an insect are unquestionably not the same thing as lice. They are actually crustaceans, distant relatives of lobsters, shrimp, and crabs that live on land and enjoy a damp, dark environment.
Woodlice Family and Body
In our gardens, woodlands, meadows, and deep caves, there are about 30 different species of woodlice. Along with the imported plants, 15 more species have made their homes in greenhouses.
The creature has 12 parts making up its body. While only seven of the segments have legs, the remaining ones have a rear telson, an arthropod’s last division that resembles its aquatic cousins. The woodlice’s breathing apparatuses are modified limbs located underneath the telson.
Being crustaceans, they must first shed their rigid exoskeleton in order to grow. In two parts, they do this. You can notice juvenile woodlice with a pale half even as the new exoskeleton solidifies and the rear telson moves first.
The woodlice are unlike lobsters and crabs in that all of their segments are linked. They can roll up to defend themselves, earning them the nickname “Pill Bug.” Even a Pill Millipede, which has 20 pairs of legs and is unrelated to other millipedes, is capable of performing the same feat.
Some of these crustacean species are incredibly flat and can fit into small spaces. The ones with more curves can roll into a smaller ball.
Woodlice flourish in areas with a moderate climate and wet environment. In one square metre of dirt, there are hundreds of them. On the other hand, they are infrequently discovered and swiftly go extinct in loose, sandy soils.
Waste Disposers: Woodlice Are An Important Part Of The Natural Recycling Process
Although many people view them as pests, they are an essential component of the natural recycling process and are regarded as experts at it. They consume dead animals and plants as food, and they are essential to the decomposition of fallen leaves and branches in our forests.
Woodlice are omnivorous creatures that devour decaying organic substances. They eat soft bark, dead roots, fallen leaves, mushrooms, potatoes, and other tubers that are left on the ground. Additionally, they consume the remains of the deceased, even eating dead woodlice.
They offer a variety of functions and act as the soil’s waste collectors. Without them, trees and plants wouldn’t have the same level of springtime access to nutrients. This would impede their growth. Additionally, it would stop leaves from degrading quickly in forests and gardens.
The Kangaroos Of The Soil
Woodlice are not insects because they are a species that originated in the sea. Between their legs, within a brood pouch, woodlice carry their young. After 4 to 6 weeks within the pouch, the infants are old enough to emerge. They scramble to escape the pouch, rip it open, and fall to the ground.
Currently in their life cycle, the woodlice are mature enough to care for themselves. But in order to survive, they consume the faeces of adult woodlice, which lowers the degree of microbial activity in their digestive tract. Woodlice cannot break down the leaves they eat without these microorganisms’ enzymes.
Some woodlice species seem to only have females. Parthenogenesis, which involves the birth of children from unfertilized eggs, is how they reproduce.
Woodlice are beneficial to the soil and are perfect for composting, soil remediation, and gardening. Numerous bacteria found in the bodies support the breakdown of organic substances. In order to ensure that decaying and dead plant debris is properly broken down and recycled to create healthy organic soil, release a lot of them into a garden. Woodlice speed up the decay process. They disturb the ground, eat fungi, and eat monocotyledonous leaves (narrow grass-like leaves).
Because of their part in the cycle of a healthy plant’s existence, woodlice are essential. They return the organic materials to the soil, where protozoans, bacteria, and fungi further digest and absorb it. This organic process results in a consistent supply of phosphates, nitrates, and other vital nutrients that support plant growth.
Heavy Metal Removal from Soil
Woodlice’s capacity to swiftly and safely remove heavy metals from polluted soil is a very irreplaceable and distinctive property. They therefore play a crucial role in the process of purging polluted soil that contains pollutants including arsenic, lead, and cadmium. On land near manufacturers, this is especially important.
They are especially helpful in slag heaps and coal waste. They consume toxic substances like lead and cadmium, which then solidify inside their digestive tracts. Toxic heavy metals are then converted into spherical matter inside the middle gut as a result. The majority of other species would perish in industrial sites that are highly contaminated, but woodlice can survive thanks to their unique ability to remediate.
These small organisms have a unique ability that aids humans in recovering contaminated soil. They turn it into healthy, nutrient-rich soil, getting rid of any hazardous metal ions that might seep into the nearby groundwater. Woodlice therefore assist in stabilising the soil as well as protecting groundwater from contamination.