Is your home infested with colonies of uninvited, armoured bugs? It may be a breeding ground for terrestrial crustacea known as woodlice (pictured at the right), who are close relatives to shrimp! Luckily, undergraduate researchers at the University of British Columbia have your back, and are finding ways to make your home a less desirable settlement for these pesky critters.
Full disclosure: unless you are an avid collector of rotting wood and other decaying organic matter (a woodlouse’s food of choice), it is unlikely that you are under the immediate threat of such an infestation. However, you can never be too prepared, so I highly recommend that you continue reading.
The student researchers did a series of experiments designed to determine processes that may give rise to the fact that terrestrial isopods tend to be more abundant under logs than on top, using a particular species of woodlice known scientifically as Oniscus asellus (and non-scientifically as Creepy crawlies).
In the first experiment, the woodlice were given a choice between two habitats, one that was dark and another that was well lit. The researchers found that, unlike the monsters inside your closet, woodlice do not disappear when the lights are turned on, as they showed no preference for either the dark or the well lit environment.
In the second experiment, they were given a choice between a moist and a dry habitat. This time, the woodlice preferred the moist environment. This made sense as woodlice use modified gills (found on modified hind legs, pictured at the left) known as branched “air trees” to breathe, and like gills, if these are not kept moist, they will be unable to breathe (visit the Slater Museum of National History website for more about these “air trees” and other cool woodlouse biology!: http://www.pugetsound.edu/academics/academic-resources/slater-museum/exhibits/terrestrial-panel/common-woodlouse/).
In the third and final experiment, the woodlice were given a choice between a warm habitat, and a cool habitat, where they showed a preference for the cooler habitat. These are some cool bugs.
So what does this mean for you, future and/or current woodlouse infestee? If you want to rid your home of these crawling crustaceans you have 2 foolproof options: (1) turn the humidifier way down and (2) turn the heat way up (make sure you sweat, just not enough to leave moist puddles behind as this will be counteractive). After this, you can be 100% confident that you will be uncomfortably hot, dry, and sweaty, 95% confident that your woodlice roommates will prefer to go somewhere else, and before you know it your home may or may not be woodlouse-free!
Once you have finally evicted your unwelcome housemates, you may find that they have taken over your garden. Do not fret! They will have a happy home here, and will help your garden flourish as some woodlice have been found to control garden pests like stink bugs (https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/humble-roly-poly-bug-thwarts-stink-bugs-farms-gardens) and they are also known to be helpful composters (https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=723)!