Kansas Rainfall Reveals Pillbugs: The Misunderstood Crop Pest Thriving in Damp Conditions

By Trish Svoboda

The recent downpours in the south-central region of Kansas have drawn attention to a crop pest. Pillbugs, often referred to as Roly Poly, thrive in damp environments and untouched soil.

Jeff Whitworth, a crop entomologist at Kansas State University, said that despite common belief, they are not classified as insects. He said they’re crustaceans, and more closely related to crayfish, crabs, and lobsters.

Pillbugs, a pest found in Kansas, multiply rapidly in damp conditions. They often infest soybean fields because their hatching aligns with the planting season. Treating these pests with a foliar spray is less effective in no-till or reduced tillage fields as they reside beneath the surface and organic matter, making it hard for the insecticide to reach them. Farmers can manage pillbug presence by adjusting their planting schedule. Despite common belief, pillbugs are not exclusive to soybeans; they consume any green, succulent plants over dried organic decaying matter in the soil.

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