Who hasn't seen a roly-poly and given it a gentle touch to watch it form into a little ball?
Rolling into a ball is how these bugs protect themselves. It even has a special name: conglobation. That’s just a fancy word that means "to form into a ball."
While the ability to conglobate may be the most entertaining thing about them, there's much more to roly-polies. Here are some other fun facts.
They go by many names
Roly-poly is a just a nickname. Officially, they are called pillbugs. They have several other nicknames besides roly-polies. Some people call them wood shrimp or doodlebugs. In England, they have many nicknames, including chiggypigs and cheesybugs.
They're not really bugs
We think of roly-polies as insects, but they are actually crustaceans, like shrimp and crayfish. Pillbugs are the only crustaceans that live entirely on land. They breathe through gills like other crustaceans, but their gills must remain moist.
They don't urinate
Roly-polies don't urinate because they don't need to. Most animals urinate to rid their bodies of waste containing ammonia. These bugs don't have to because they have a high tolerance for ammonia.
This isn't their only unusual bodily function. Pillbugs also eat their own feces. And they drink differently than most animals. They can drink from their mouths and their back ends.
They’re good at their jobs
Pillbugs are scavengers. They mainly eat decaying plants. They serve as decomposers, breaking down decaying material and returning nutrients to the soil. In fact, they improve soil quality where they live.
They aren't a nuisance
Roly-polies are one of the few things in the dirt that don't cause people to squeal. And because they don't bite or sting, they pose no risk to humans.
Pillbugs sometimes make their way into our homes, but they rarely survive more than a few days. If you find roly-polies in your house, you can just take them outside and release them.