The woodlouse is not actually an insect, it is actually a crustacean. Crustaceans are a group of invertebrates that includes over 45,000 different species including lobsters, crabs, and prawns.
The name crustacean comes from the Latin word ‘crusta’, which means “hard shell”.
The woodlouse has 14 parts to its body, which gives it the flexibility to curl up into a ball to protect itself. This means that only the hard, outer shell of the woodlouse is exposed to danger.
Toads, centipedes, spiders, millipedes, and the occasional wasp are all predators of the woodlouse.
The woodlouse is the only species of crustacean to inhabit land instead of water. There are thought to be over 3,000 different species of woodlouse around the world.
On average, woodlice grow to around 1cm in length, but there are some tropical species that can grow much bigger than this. They generally live between 2-4 years in total.
What do woodlice eat?
Woodlice are herbivores so plants but depends almost exclusively on dead plant matter including fallen leaves, flowers, fruits, or even fallen trees.
Understanding what do woodlice eat begins with knowing that they are herbivores, that eat only plant vegetation. “What do woodlice eat” depends on the life cycle of the plant.
They almost exclusively eat dead and decaying plant matter, which can be found on the floor of forests or in gardens; and include fallen leaves, flowers, fruits, or even fallen trees. They have even been known to eat their own faeces!
Do Woodlice drink water?
It may be strange to hear that what do woodlice eat may be answered with; their faeces, and equally disgusting, is that woodlice drink water through their bottoms.
They don’t actually urinate, but they do expel their faecal waste through their shell in the form of ammonia vapour.
As woodlice are crustaceans, they breathe through gills attached to the legs on their abdomen; which have moist tubes to extract oxygen from the air. Woodlice can survive for around an hour entirely submerged underwater.
Why do Woodlice like the dark?
As woodlice breathe through their gills, they must remain in moist, damp conditions, so that they can use the process of gas exchange to breathe.
Therefore, they seek out such environments, often found underneath rocks, logs, and other decaying matter. As they lose moisture so quickly in dry air, they avoid sunlight and open spaces.
Do Woodlice carry disease?
Woodlice are not considered major pests unless they invade homes in large numbers in search of moisture. They do not carry any known diseases that affect humans.
As we know what do woodlice eat is entirely decaying plant-based material, we can be assured that they do not feed on store cupboard staples found in human homes.
Woodlice do not bite or sting people. What do woodlice eat is commonly thought to be wood, but this is a general misconception, as woodlice will only rarely eat wood and it must be rotten and damp.
Where do Woodlice like to live?
Woodlice like damp, dark places and can be found hiding in walls, under stones and in compost heaps. They can be found all over the world, in gardens, fields, forests and jungles.
They play a vital part in the natural carbon dioxide cycle, by eating fallen vegetation that would otherwise give off fumes that can be harmful to the environment.
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