While working in the garden, we’ve been finding a lot of roly-polys. The kids love to hold them and see them roll up into balls. Zack said he wanted to take one in the house as a pet and I told him that you can’t have a rolly-poly as a pet. But once we were inside, I did a web search and it turns out that roly-polys are great for indoor study. A roly-poly habitat is much easier and cleaner to maintain than the traditional ant farm.
We read two books that we got from the library about them though in the books, they are called “pill bugs”. “I’m a Pill Bug” by Yukihisa Tokuda is a great book for Zack because of the torn paper illustrations, the language, and the length of the book. We also got a longer book to read. This one has pictures and diagrams and have more information about pills bugs.
At the end of both books, they give instructions for building a pill bug habitat. You need a glass or plastic container. We used a jar we had lying around. Next, we dug some soil and loosely packed it in the jar. Then we placed rotten leaves, some stones, and a piece of concrete in the container. They eat rotten leaves but they also need to eat stone or concrete once in a while. You have to mist it once in a while so they don’t dry out but that’s it. We also planted a little plant in there just for decorative reasons. Once in a while we put pieces of carrot in it and they like to crawl all over it so we think they like vegetable peelings too. The book says to return them to where you found them in the fall but we are just keeping them for a week. The kids like to take them out and hold them, examine them with a magnifying glass and count its 14 legs. Since pill bugs are nocturnal, they mostly like to hide under the rocks and leaves and the boys can’t really sit and watch them for a long time like ants or triops, or other creatures that can be kept as “pets”.
The kids told me what to write in their journals and I recorded their words and they drew a picture for their entries.
I found a few errors in Sean’s journal so I should have proofread before taking this picture but you get the gist of it. Also, the last sentence on Sean’s page says, “They do not have bones, they have an exoskeleton which is a skeleton that is not a skeleton but made of tough skin.” Pill bugs are actually crustaceans like crabs and shrimps, interesting, huh?
Other interesting facts about these lovable yet slightly disgusting creatures:
They have seven segments on their thorax each holding 7 pairs of legs.
They make square shaped droppings and they eat their droppings.
They molt and eat their skin.
A pill bug can drink through its anus.
They eat each other especially when a pill bug just molted and its new shell has not hardened.
Since they use copper instead of iron to carry oxygen in the blood, their blood is blue.
The moms carry the eggs on their underside until they hatch.
Pill bugs don’t urinate, they do not need to turn ammonia into urea to get rid of it because it has a high tolerance for it and they just pass it through their exoskeleton.