How to Stop Pill Bugs From Eating Strawberries

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Ripening fruit is especially susceptible to pill bug damage.
Ripening fruit is especially susceptible to pill bug damage. (Image: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Perennials in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 8, strawberries (Fragaria × ananassa) are plagued by several pests, including pill bugs. Pill bugs -- also known as roly-polies because of their ability to roll up into little balls -- are chewing insects that can cause damage when they appear in high numbers. If pill bugs pose a problem in your garden, you can stop them from eating your strawberry plants by incorporating one or more control techniques.

Things You'll Need

  • Food-grade diatomaceous earth
  • Mask
  • Straw or cardboard
  • Bucket
  • Soapy water
  • Gloves
  • Pesticide

Remove plant debris from around the strawberry plants, including decaying leaves and fruits. Pill bugs thrive and breed in decaying matter.

Sprinkle a fine layer of food-grade diatomaceous earth around the strawberry plants. This product kills pill bugs by drying out their exoskeletons. Perform this task on a calm day, and wear a mask so you do not inhale the fine dust.

Apply a 1/2- to 1-inch layer of straw, cardboard or another type of barrier around the strawberry plants to prevent pill bugs from reaching the plants.

Hand pick pill bugs when you see them on the fruits and leaves. Drop them in a bucket of soapy water to kill them. Alternatively, wear gloves and squish them between your fingers.

Shake a ready-to-use pesticide product, such as one that contains carbaryl, that is labeled as safe on strawberries and effective on pill bugs. Spray to wet the plants and soil, holding the bottle eight to 12 inches away from the target areas. Wait at least one week before reapplication. Do not apply pesticides within one week of harvest. Also, do not apply when the temperature is above 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Reduce irrigation after your strawberries start to ripen. At that time, water the plants after the soil dries to the touch. Pill bugs are especially attracted to ripening fruit and moist soil conditions.

Tips & Warnings

  • Pill bugs are similar to another common pest: sow bugs. Both can be treated in the same manner.

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