Woodlice Facts

Common name: Woodlice

Scientific name: Oniscidea, Oniscus Asellus Linnaeus

Woodlice feed on decomposing plant material.

Woodlice are active all year round.

Woodlice are not so much a pest as an actual benefit to a garden or allotment. Woodlice rarely eat healthy plants and help to recycle decomposing vegetation.

However, woodlice sometimes can damage soft plant tissues like strawberry plants and seedlings. They can also be associated with secondary damage from slugs and will further damage rotting or dying plants.

Woodlice are food for many other creatures such as:

  • Shrews
  • Toads
  • Centipedes
  • Spiders
  • Ground beetles
  • Parasitic flies.

About Woodlice

Woodlice Lifecycle

In the UK, Woodlice breed during the summer months only, producing between two and six hundred young in a season and have a lifespan of between one and four years. Woodlice gather in large numbers in dark, damp places, such as under decaying wood or plant debris.

After mating, females carry their fertilised eggs in a small brood pouch under their bodies. The young hatch inside the pouch and stay there until they are big enough to survive on their own.

Turn over any log, rock, piece of wood or other debris and you are likely to find common rough woodlice. The species is found across the UK in almost any habitat except some cold highland areas. They are flat, oval and uniform grey with a thick, bumpy exoskeleton and have seven body segments, each with a pair of legs.

Though they look like millipedes, woodlice are crustaceans, related to shrimps and crabs. This makes woodlice some of the few truly land-living crustaceans (most must return to the water to breed). Like their aquatic relatives they do not have a waxy body covering so they easily dry out. This is why woodlice hide away in cool, damp places during the day and come out at night.

As well as decaying wood, common rough woodlice feed on leaf litter, fungi, fallen fruit, dead animals and even faeces. They even eat their own excrement, an act known as coprophagy. The species does this to recycle copper in their diet as their blood is copper-based like marine crustaceans. Woodlice also play a vital role as decomposers - compost heaps are woodlouse heaven!

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