Just today, I’ve removed three pillbugs from my apartment. I have no idea where they’re coming from, but they really like to hang around my kitchen. Maybe they’re hoping for a cup of tea. Or a beer, it’s pretty hot out even in the morning.
Pillbugs are the least offensive arthropods I’ve encountered since moving to Texas. There’s the giant cockroaches that everyone tries to pretend are okay by calling them palmetto bugs, but let’s not kid ourselves. There’s the tactical mosquitos. There’s the thing in my bathroom that I crushed with a wad of toilet paper this morning that we will not speak of further. There was the other thing that I encountered in my shower, which I mercifully can only remember as a mahogany-colored blob (I wasn’t wearing my glasses at the time) that I beat into a disturbingly large smear with a shampoo bottle.
I’ve got fond memories of pillbugs from growing up. What kid hasn’t had fun poking these little guys and watching them curl up into little grey-black, segmented pills?
Pillbugs are crustaceans (so they have blue blood), they breathe through gills (but spend all their life on land), and they’re exceedingly cute. They also tickle if you let them walk across your skin, kind of like millipedes. They also eat their own poop (to recover excreted copper), but thankfully have not done so in my presence.
Apparently the ones in Texas are mostlyArmadillium vulgare, which I’m pretty sure are the same ones we have in Colorado. I think it’s pretty neat that their family name is Armidillidiidae, which I’m guessing was named for armadillos, since those can also curl up into a ball. Though unlike pillbugs, armadillos aren’t nearly as cute and can apparently seriously fuck up your car if you run over one. Armadillium vulgare is apparently actually a European pillbug, so it’s a transplant.
Oh yeah. And they’re in order Isopoda. Which means they’re related to these guys, which I think is another argument for returning pillbugs safely to the wild habitat of the courtyard garden outside my window. Because I don’t want one of their big brothers showing up while I’m in the shower and chittering at me in a menacing fashion to indicate its displeasure that I stepped on second cousin three times removed Rita.
Though of course, there’s also the parasitic tongue-eating isopod that makes me glad I’m not a fish and oh god I wish I could unsee that.
Suddenly pillbugs seem… less cute.