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two-fold bug question

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two-fold bug question

Post  dstack on 12/8/2013, 12:59 am

Today while turning my compost there were hundreds, if not thousands of these bugs (see pic). 



I know what you're thinking. "His compost isn't heating up like it should..." I know, and I normally turn my compost each weekend, but didn't get around to it last weekend, and it got a little too dry. 

First, what are these bugs called? And should I be concerned that there are so many of these in my compost? Normally I'm not concerned about bugs in there knowing that once it heats up that they'll either leave or cook. I've just never seen so many of these, whatever they are.

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Re: two-fold bug question

Post  sanderson on 12/8/2013, 1:27 am

is it a mealy bug?  There's something else that resembles them but I don't remember the name.

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Re: two-fold bug question

Post  dstack on 12/8/2013, 1:35 am

These are much larger than mealybugs. These averaged about a quarter inch.

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Re: two-fold bug question

Post  Marc Iverson on 12/8/2013, 4:49 pm

Just cuz I've read about them getting in compost piles and multiplying like crazy -- sow bugs?

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Re: two-fold bug question

Post  dstack on 12/8/2013, 5:50 pm

@Marc Iverson wrote:Just cuz I've read about them getting in compost piles and multiplying like crazy -- sow bugs?
THAT'S IT! Sow bugs! 

So now the second question... Should I be concerned that I have an infestation. I doubt it since it was just a bad week for my bin, and I'm giving it much more attention this weekend. So it should heat up nicely. If they can't take the heat... GET OUT! Right? Very Happy

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Re: two-fold bug question

Post  Marc Iverson on 12/8/2013, 6:41 pm

I just read some more about it, and saw them described as "undesirables." Here are some other things I searched up.

This bit, in a previous paragraph, identified sow bugs as wood lice.

To say that woodlice are fans of moisture is putting it mildly. All of their relatives live IN water, their bodies are NOT watertight, and so their entire life is an endless search for moisture, which is why we often see them around compost piles and mulch—they always gravitate to the moistest area around. And when they’re in mulch they don’t need to attack your plants; they prefer that nice wet, dead plant material. Yum.

So, ‘who’ is to blame here? I pick slugs out of the pestiferous lineup. They live in the same kinds of overly-moist conditions, and I often see woodlice (and millipedes) move in after slugs have chewed the first holes in things like strawberries or tomatoes.
... and ...

Don’t be fooled by the common names of these arthropods – they are in fact crustaceans, not insects (and certainly not lice!), related then to lobsters, crabs and shrimp. They are not restricted to terrestrial habitats by any means.
... and ...

sow bugs prefer a diet of rotting wood. Therefore their presence in compost (all else being equal) is good because it suggests a good content of strucural carbon.
... and ...

Like most of the other creatures in a composting system, these invertebrates should not be viewed with disdain. Not only do they not harm the worms in any way whatsoever, but they actually perform a very beneficial role as ‘shredders’, basically breaking up large fragments of organic matter, thus making them more accessible to microbes for further decomposition. Generally, they prefer a somewhat damp, dark environmental – but not the really moist conditions your worms love. If you notice that the number of sow bugs in your system seems to be increasing, it may be an indication that you are not keeping the moisture content high enough.
... and ...

Usually I can't see sowbugs in my compost. However, if I screen it they become obvious- many, many of them. Never have seen any plant damage from them though, even when I've used compost that was literally crawling with them.
... and ...

If it's a sign of too much water, then I wonder why my compost bin even had roly-polies and sowbugs during last year's drought.
... and ...

why do you try to make sure there are no sowbugs in your compost before you apply it to the garden? It's unnecessary and they will help break down any debris in the garden that would otherwise tie up some nitrogen. They have been known to hurt seedlings when no dead matter is left available (insects eat a lot they wouldn't normally eat if it means survival, which is why they will be around much longer than us) and if you want to avoid that you can spread the finished compost on a tarp or something in the sun and the put down a board. The bugs will migrate under the board within the day. You can also use bark off of firewood or some other woody substance. You can do the same thing in the garden, though. Don't want sowbugs to eat your plants? Then provide them with food like bark or a board and move them back to the compost where they do some good.
... and ...

I have read that elsewhere, though I don't remember where. I.E. that sowbugs will only eat healthy plants if no other organic matter is available. I do think that is true. I add tons of sowbugs to my beds with my compost and have yet to see any damage from them. I believe that is because they have readily available food from all the organic matter I add to my soil throughout the year.

...

I've literally got a zillion sowbugs in my compost and I've never had any plant damage.

...

I have not had any sowbug overpopulation since I went organic. We used to have them so thick you could not see the concrete (not sure what they were doing on the concrete but I suspect it was temperature related). I attribute the disappearance of the huge numbers to the return of birds, lizards, geckos, and toads to my yard. The only time I see them in "packs" is when they attack my dog's poop. They seem to play an important role in quickly returning the poop to the soil. It would not surprise me at all if they were processing insect poop in your compost.

Now that the population is under control, I love the little bugs.
I've read a number of sites saying sow bugs come into excessively wet materials and compost piles, but others saying that's not true or suggesting that the opposite is true -- they love it where it's dry. You'll have to draw your own conclusions. I think my best take-away idea from all this is that if compost is infested and you were thinking of spreading it around seedlings or perhaps especially tender plants (like lettuce or peas, as opposed to tomatoes), use the tip about spreading it out on a tarp in the sun and collecting the bugs under a board plopped on top of the compost.

It sounds like, if they really love paper and wood so much, they would be great helpmates in a Back to Eden woodchip-mulched garden.

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Re: two-fold bug question

Post  camprn on 12/8/2013, 6:41 pm

They really look like something different than sowbugs. Maybe woodlouse? No worries at this point, they are  probably helping break down the compost. But, you may want to water that pile.

http://bugguide.net/index.php?q=search&keys=sowbugs&search=Search

Marc, would you please post some links to the info you read.

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Re: two-fold bug question

Post  dstack on 12/8/2013, 8:39 pm

Well, yesterday I left the bin uncovered as we weren't expecting any rain. Now there's plenty of moisture. And from Google Images both sow and woodlouse looks the same to me. I think what I have is also known as a roly poly.

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Re: two-fold bug question

Post  dstack on 12/8/2013, 10:21 pm

Camprn and Marc, I appreciate ALL of the feedback. Thanks so much! Very Happy

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Re: two-fold bug question

Post  jimmy cee on 12/9/2013, 10:04 am

I live with sowbugs, in compost piles, garden, and wife's flower beds.
I go out at night with a flashlight, their everywhere..They have done damage to just about all but tomatoes,
I have done everything but eat them.. maybe I'll try that this year.
Diatomaceous earth will help, however not good for worms.
I have found that laying some 2 X 4s flat around the garden will help in getting rid of some.
In the mornings I just pick up the boards and discard sow bugs that crawl under, you can do this with rolls of newspaper also.
I do want them in my compost piles, but they just wont stay there..

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Re: two-fold bug question

Post  dstack on 12/9/2013, 10:22 am

After reading that they love rotting wood I understand why I have more in my compost now than ever. This round of compost has more rotting wood than I've ever had. I've cut up so many yard clippings for this batch and much of it was woody.

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Re: two-fold bug question

Post  dstack on 12/9/2013, 10:39 am

@jimmy cee wrote:I live with sowbugs, in compost piles, garden, and wife's flower beds.
I go out at night with a flashlight, their everywhere..They have done damage to just about all but tomatoes,
I have done everything but eat them.. maybe I'll try that this year.
Diatomaceous earth will help, however not good for worms.
I have found that laying some 2 X 4s flat around the garden will help in getting rid of some.
In the mornings I just  pick up the boards and discard sow bugs that crawl  under, you can do this with rolls of newspaper also.
I do want them in my compost piles, but they just wont stay there..
_________________________________________

DSTACK:  I can't get OUT of this quote box no matter what I do... 
Jimmy, if you want to attract them to your compost and keep them there cut up a lot of woody yard clippings, small woody tree limbs and bushes. 

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Re: two-fold bug question

Post  sanderson on 12/9/2013, 12:57 pm

Dstack,  I'm glad you got your answer.  I have a new hard drive but no Word yet.  I had started a Word pictorial  of good bugs-bad bugs.  Couldn't access it to find the look-a-like mealy vs sow bug pics.

This first year gardening I had to use BT to kill them, along with slugs/snails.  They definitely ate some seedlings.

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Re: two-fold bug question

Post  camprn on 12/9/2013, 1:02 pm

BUGGUIDE A great resource.

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Re: two-fold bug question

Post  dstack on 12/9/2013, 1:03 pm

BT is my hero! It's made it so much easier to control larvae that invades my garden. And it's good to know I can use it on these as well if they become a problem. Thanks Sanderson!

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Re: two-fold bug question

Post  sanderson on 12/9/2013, 1:04 pm

Lost all my Bookmarks, also!

Dstack, Sluggo Plus.

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Re: two-fold bug question

Post  dstack on 12/9/2013, 1:07 pm

Sorry to hear that. I recommend using Google Chrome for a browser so it saves your bookarks on the cloud so you can access it on any computer as long as your logged into Google.

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Re: two-fold bug question

Post  Marc Iverson on 12/9/2013, 2:06 pm

@dstack wrote:Well, yesterday I left the bin uncovered as we weren't expecting any rain. Now there's plenty of moisture. And from Google Images both sow and woodlouse looks the same to me. I think what I have is also known as a roly poly.

Woodlouse is another name for sow bug, from some of the stuff I was reading.

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Re: two-fold bug question

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