28 July 2010

Woodlice

oniscus asellus

In Britain there are at least thirty five species of woodlice. Worldwide there are several thousand species with new species still being discovered. The most populous British species are the common shiny woodlouse (oniscus asellus), the common rough woodlouse, the common grey pygmy woodlouse, the common striped woodlouse and the common pill bug (armadillidium vulgare).

Fossil evidence proves that woodlice have been around and little changed for over three hundred million years whereas the best estimate for homonoid type beings is ninety million years with recognisable modern man only being around for the last 250,000 years. These figures are of course debatable but it is very clear that woodlice were here long before human beings evolved.

Our humble Sheffield house has a not so humble garden which I estimate to cover around 4,500 square feet. Much of this is grass lawn - not the best territory for woodlice who enjoy damp, dark places. Lift any brick, pot, stone, dead weed, leaf, compost bin or watering can in our garden and you will find a woodlouse party going on. Lots of them, of all ages. They are all over the place. Despite the lawned areas, I estimate that there are ten woodlice for every square foot of our garden - that's 45,000 on our property alone. It wouldn't surprise me if my guesswork was wildly conservative.

Some say that woodlice can damage young plants and several English councils' environmental departments offer advice for getting rid of them. However, in my experience as a gardener, observer of nature and former allotment keeper, I have never had a problem with them. In fact, in chomping through dead plant material and dead timber, woodlice are most probably making an invaluable contribution to overall soil quality.

They are right under our noses and fascinating to watch even though they are principally nocturnal creatures. You could say that this is their planet. They were here long before human interlopers arrived and are perfectly evolved to undertake the jobs that Nature requires of them. If there were a need to begin a "Save The Woodlouse" campaign, I would be one of the first to join it but thankfully, though some sub-species are threatened, worldwide woodlice numbers remain bountiful beyond our wildest imaginings.
bathynomous giganteus

8 comments:

  1. Oh no not more bugs YP!! I still haven't recovered from the eyelash bugs!
    Cheers
    Helen

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  2. HELSIE _ Oh! You remembered them! How sweet!

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  3. Elizabeth5:39 am

    Ugh!!What is with you and creepy crawlies?

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  4. Speaking of bugs, here's a suggestion for the YP bug blog: A not so nice bug is the Simulium Posticatum (Blandford Fly), from which, or whom, we have suffered here in Catalonia on the river Ebro for years and who is apparently (says the Daily Mail) making a "pleasant" guest appearance in the UK! Be warned!! Lock up your daughters!


    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1298527/Superfly-taste-humans-Summer-surge-insect-bites-send-victims-hospital-agony.html#ixzz0v6oiIXOR

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  5. They have a friend in Sheffield!

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  6. ELIZABETH I'm the kind of guy who - at primary school - would delight in chasing pigtailed girls around the playground with a pet earwig in a matchbox.
    BRIAN A nice thing about England is that we are rarely troubled by insects. An Ohio friend - Chris - couldn't believe that we had evening barbecues without being troubled by clouds of bugs. You can keep your Blandford flies! Serves you right for deserting the motherland!
    RHYMES Maybe I should be Buddhist. When flies, spiders or wasps appeared in school classrooms I always defended their right to life even though most kids were keen to squash them.

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  7. In Sydney the woodlice (like everyone else) have gone to the beach. Lift up a rock on the shore and you find loads of these woodlice-like critturs scurrying around underneath.

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  8. I love Woodlice. Did you know they are originally from the sea? They even still have gills. That's why they like damp places.

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