What Are Woodlice?
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What Other Names Are Woodlice Known As?
Woodlice are isopod crustaceans found in most parts of the world and are called different names depending on where they are found. These include:
Woodlice – Worldwide
- Pill Beetle – UK – but not all species can roll into a ball!
- Granfers – Cornwall
- Cheesy Bob – Surrey
- Slaters – Australia
When you look closely into these insects online, you quickly become aware that there are hundreds of names associated with Wood Lice.
This only begs the question: Do humans have a secret affection for them? We wonder.
What Are Woodlice?
Woodlice are invertebrates meaning they don’t have a spine and instead have their bones or in their case, plates on the outside.
These armour-plated bugs are widespread, and thousands of species exist worldwide in almost every environment.
In the UK, however, we have around 50 species, depending on which resource you would like to believe.
Let’s just say we have oodles, but only a handful that we see day to day, probably just five species we could describe as common, nationwide.
Are Woodlice Crustaceans?
Yes – they are crustaceans known as Isopods, with seven pairs of jointed limbs and other appendages they use for respiration!
Isopods have been around for over three hundred million years.
Fossil records show they have been around since the Devonian period when fish first began to appear in our seas.
What Do Woodlice Eat?
The Woodlouse Feeds on and effectively recycle decomposing plant material, animal remains and dung, preferring damp environments where suitable food has partially decomposed, making digestion easier for them.
Many will find their way into our occupied areas and present as a nuisance.
The Woodlouse also likes wallpaper, and we’ve seen a few cases where expensive wallpaper has been devoured by large populations.
What we usually see is dead woodlice that have been unable to find shelter once emerging into our heated and poorly ventilated homes.
Most cannot tolerate dry environments, but in other parts of the world, they have adaptations helping them survive hostile warm environments.
Do Woodlice Bite?
No – they do not bite and are not harmful to humans although you wouldn’t want to eat a one.
Please don’t worry; you are quite safe.
Does A Woodlouse Carry Disease?
No – These are not implicated widely as creatures that are medically important vectors of disease.
All creatures have the potential to spread and carry pathogenic microorganisms, including woodlice.
But we have had no reports that they carry anything that could make you sick.
Predators Of The Woodlouse
The Woodlouse however inconspicuous and unsavoury it might look, it seems it has many predators.
Woodlice have a habit of living in clusters or groups, and this would make sense as it makes them safer.
The main predators include The woodlouse spider (Dysdera), Reptiles, Toads, Centipedes, Shrews and Birds. Parasitic flies (Parafeburia maculata) are also significant in some areas.
What Do Woodlice Drink?
Water. Both through mouthparts and in their food (40-50%). Evidence also supports the theory that they absorb water through their cuticle or exoskeleton, especially in areas of high humidity.
Despite such a varied methods of water acquisition, they don’t appear to like oversaturated environments.
A quick and easy test of this is spraying or pouring water over an area of ground where they are present. Woodlice will be seen crawling away from the water!
Do Woodlice Have Larvae?
No – they develop inside a pouch before emerging after as much as three months, as miniature versions of the adult.
As the Woodlouse grows, it goes through a series of moults where it sheds its hard exoskeleton to reveal a new and larger white exoskeleton beneath.
During this time they are not protected by a hard outer shell and can fall prey to predators that include other woodlice!