Woodlouse Care

All living creatures should be treated with care and respect, handled carefully and kept in a suitable manner.

What are woodlice?

Woodlice, also known as pillbugs, roly poly and slaters, are terrestrial crustaceans that belong to the order Isopoda. They get their name from often being found in old wood. It is thought there are around 3,500 species in the world and about 35-40 of these can be found in the British Isles.

Where do they live?

Woodlice are abundant animals usually found in healthy gardens and greenhouses. They thrive in dark, damp places and love to hide under wood, leaves, bricks and plant pots! Large numbers can often be found in compost heaps where they help to breakdown plant material.

Why study woodlice?

Woodlice are great for studying and are particularly popular when looking at animal habitats, behaviour and movement responses. They are commonly used in choice chamber experiments which demonstrate the type of conditions woodlice prefer. The woodlice change their movement pattern when responding to stimuli such as temperature or food sources in their environment.

How quickly should we use woodlice?

We supply with some decaying leaves/humus for the woodlice to feed on, however we advise you use as soon as you can to ensure they are healthy.

How should we store woodlice?

Woodlice need damp conditions in order to survive. They absorb water from the air which makes humidity a key condition for their habitat. They are mainly detritivores that feed off dead plant matter, fungi and their own faeces.

If you can't use immediately, keep outside in a sheltered location away from direct sun/rain for a few days. For longer storage we recommend you decant into to a tank of slightly damp soil with leaf litter and rotting wood, then mist as required to ensure humid conditions.

How quickly do you deliver?

We collect woodlice to order from the Darwin garden in Shropshire and need a few days notice. We can’t collect when the ground is very frozen, and try to avoid posting when the weather is very hot – so please take this into account when ordering! During ‘normal’ weather we dispatch live items Monday – Wednesday to avoid woodlice travelling over the weekend.

Some fun woodlice facts

Woodlice are commonly mistaken for insects, but they actually have 14 legs and as terrestrial crustaceans are more closely related to lobsters, they even breathe using gills!

They are capable of rolling themselves up into a ball. This is a defence mechanism against predators and desiccation. Their predators include spiders, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

What should I do with woodlice after the experiment?

Being native to the UK the woodlice can be released back into the wild after an experiment. We recommend finding a cool shady area with cover such as a hedgerow with leaf litter to set them free.