Woodlouse, armadillo, bug, boat builder, carpenter, cafner, cheeselog, cheesy bug, doodle bug, pill bug, potato bug, roly-poly, sow bug, roll-up-bug, chuggypig, charliepig, chuckypig, slater, gramersow, butcher boy, butchy boy, wood bug.
The long list of colloquial names for the woodlouse reflects just, how, familiar we all are with this fascinating little creature. Ever present in all but the driest environments, non-threatening (no long hairy legs or nasty fangs to bite) it is part of our childhood memories and constant companion to gardener and forester alike.
Not insects at all but crustacean, related to crabs and lobsters,around 40 species can be found in the British Isles. The pill woodlouse gets its name because it can roll itself up into a ball.
Woodlice like damp, dark places and can be found hiding in walls, under stones and in compost heaps. Some species such as the common sea slater are only found on the coast.
A woodlouse has 14 legs and an outer shell called an exoskeleton. When a woodlouse grows too big for its exoskeleton it has to moult to allow a new shell to take its place.
They have a pair of antennae to help them find their way around, and two small ‘tails’, called uropods, sticking out the back of their bodies. These help them navigate and some species use them to produce chemicals to discourage predators. Most woodlice are found on land but their ancestors used to live in water thus woodlice still breathe using gills. Check out pictures online of giant deep-sea woodlouse.
Woodlice eat rotting plants and fungi but do not transmit disease or cause significant damage in the home or garden. The presence of large numbers of woodlice inside properties indicates a problem with damp. So best to fix the damp not the woodlouse.
After mating, females carry their fertilised eggs in a small brood pouch under their bodies. The young hatch inside the pouch and stay there until they are big enough to survive on their own.
A common woodlouse can live for three-four years.
It has been a real challenge to try and produce a metal sculpture that does justice to one of natures little marvels but I think it has come out quite well. The response from those who have seen it has been very positive. Woodlouse is reassuringly heavy and very tactile crying out to be given a pat or a stroke. So I will be producing them in small batches, the bare metal version (my favourite) should be ready to go right away and the paint finish version ready at a couple of days notice.
So find a place in your heart, home, garden or business to inspire and educate.