Study Finds ‘Rollie Pollies’ Remove Heavy Metals From Soil, Protects Groundwater

Rolly Polly bubTurns out a little bug we don’t think of much is one of the best protectors of soil ever imaginable. Read on to find out more!

Turn over a brick or a board lying in the yard and underneath you may find a collection of pill bugs scurrying about. Also known as “rollie pollies” or wood- lice, these grey-colored creatures can be found in many dark, moist environments feeding on decaying matter.

Actually, these critters are not bugs at all. They are crustaceans and more closely resemble crabs and shrimp, not insects. They are characterized by their ability to roll up into a ball when they feel threatened.

Breeding or collecting pill bugs may be an important practice for homesteading and gardening. The guts of these pill bugs contain a number of microbes that help the critter feed on dead, organic matter. By releasing mass quantities of pill bugs into a mature garden, one can be assured that dead plant matter is being properly broken down and returned to healthy soil.

Pill bugs play an important role in the cycle of healthy plant life. They return organic matter to the soil so it can be digested further by fungi, protozoans and bacteria. This process produces a natural supply of nitrates, phosphates and other vital nutrients that plants need to thrive now and in future growing seasons.

One very unique feature of these crustaceans is their ability to safely remove heavy metals from soil. For this reason, they are important for cleaning up soil pollutants such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic. In coal spoils and slag heaps, pill bugs also come in handy.

When they take in heavy metals like lead and cadmium, they crystallize these ions in their guts. The heavy metal toxins become spherical deposits in the mid gut. With this special cleanup capability, pill bugs survive in the most contaminated sites where most creatures can’t.

The magic of the pill bugs can reestablish healthy soil and prevent toxic metal ions from leaching into the groundwater. This means pill bugs are protecting well water from becoming contaminated while stabilizing soils.

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