Roly Poly Destruction! Or, what’s eating my pansies?

February 12, 2013

You might have noticed something munching on your pansies and violas this winter.  Usually, first guess is either rabbits or squirrels. In fact I've been asked a few times lately about how to keep the squirrels from munching on their pansies. BUT...you might need to take a closer look to discover the real culprit. Yep, could be Roly Polys! Also known as pillbugs.

Rollypolly

I've replanted the pansies and violas along my front sidewalk bed twice this winter. I just figured the first round's demise was due to my neglect. Yes, neglect. See, I'm so busy helping all of you guys with your gardens I barely have time to tend my own! Anyhoo, I didn't pay much mind, I just replanted some new ones. About three days later, they were all pretty much toast. Now, I thought to myself "really Leslie, what is your problem.." But a quick close-up inspection confirmed what had been in the back of my mind as a possible issue...pillbugs.

See those little buggers down there munching my pansies away? This is what happens when we have mild moist winters. Two in a row only makes the problem worse. Without sustained cold weather or repeat freezes, critters like these pillbugs will just keep multiplying all winter long. To the point that there isn't enough food out there to sustain their numbers. Normally, pillbugs feed on detritus, or decaying plant matter. But when that food source runs low, they'll move to the green living parts of your plants. Little bastards. Excuse my French.

Looks like I'll be putting down an application of DE (Diatomaceous Earth) around these plants to try and reduce the pillbug population. You could also spray your plants with Spinosad, an organic non-selective insecticide. Just be sure if you use Spinosad, you only spray it at dusk, AFTER the honeybees have gone home for the night.

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