Critters in the classroom, insect edition: Pill bugs and sow bugs

Elementary/Middle School

Often mistaken for beetles, these live terrestrial arthropods live their whole lives on land, feeding on decaying organic matter.  

When disturbed or threatened, pill bugs will roll up into a tight ball, earning them the nickname "rollie pollies."

Contrary to pill bugs, sow bugs can be identified by their tail-like appendages and will remain flat and still when threatened, unable to roll up into a ball. 

Ideal for teaching animal behavior and demonstrating response to stimuli such as light or heat, these wingless crustaceans are:

  • Easy to maintain in the classroom
  • Do not bite or sting
  • Demonstrate differences in defensive behavior between species

Ready to have a ball? Discover more resources below:

Download the care and handling guide

Shop for live pill bugs and sow bugs

Get the animal behavior tray activity

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