Walking With Woodlice – crustaceans in your garden

woodlouseDid you know that woodlice are crustaceans, a group with around 45,000 species? Crustacean means hard shell. Woodlouse are therefore related to crabs, lobsters and barnacles. They live in areas like your compost heap and eat dead and decaying matter – they are important in nutrient recycling. This one had gone off piste and came into my lounge, it obliged a close up photo, and I placed it in the wood chips under the hedge.

The Natural History Museum has created an easy identification key so that you can identify any woodlouse you find in your garden – they call it the Woodlouse Wizard: woodlouse wizard.

If you enjoy trying to identify wildlife of all shapes and sizes around Orchard Park, or if you’d like to have a go, join us early evening on 21st July whilst we look at species active in the daytime, before we move onto moths and bats a little later. More details of the event will be provided next week. Thankfully I shouldn’t think we’ll come across any sea louse in Cambridge.

The folks at QI have compiled some words on woodlice:


Woodlice, also known as armadillo bugs, cheeselogs and pill bugs, are not insects but crustaceans. They breathe through gills which are attached to the swimming legs on their abdomen; moist tubes extract oxygen from the air but if submerged in water they can survive for about an hour.

Woodlice don’t urinate, but expel waste through their shell in the form of ammonia vapour. They drink through their bottoms and eat anything from rotting vegetation to their own faeces.

The giant isopod or sea louse, Bathynomus gigantes, is a second cousin (same order, different suborder, family etc) with a striking resemblance to a rather grumpy woodlouse – only it can grow to over two feet long.




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