Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Blue Wood Louse

With the rains, an unprecedented infestation of wood louse, aka: roly-polies, aka: pill bugs has appeared. In all sizes from infants to adults, they seem to be everywhere.... under every rock, in every potted plant, along every piece of damp wood within the garden.

They eat wood and fiber of plant stems, and a multitude of other chewable substances. They will literally destroy a garden, not to mention they can also cause the ruination of rail road ties and home foundations. They are a major problem, especially for organic gardeners.  However there is hope~

I have always depended upon observation to alert me to changes in the garden. Over the course of years it becomes apparent that some changes are subtle, while others are seasonal and appear quite suddenly. Thus it was with the blue wood louse and the morphing bagworms.

The Wood Louse (Armadillidium)
Children have always been fascinated by the wood louse (roly-poly) and observing and collecting them is a timeworn garden hobby. They have battleship gray segmented ’armor’ with multiple sets of transparent legs and boast the interesting habit of endlessly rolling into a tight marble-like ball. However they are not at all passive for they dine on wood in any hidden and damp spot in the garden, eventually causing massive destruction.

Last summer I observed a portion of them were a lovely sapphire blue. At first I thought perhaps it was the blue/green pellets in miracle grow they had eaten, however research indicates they are infected with a fatal Iridovirus named for the Greek goddess of the Rainbow, Isis. In March of 1954 Mr. Claude Rivers discovered crane fly larvae glowing with patches of blue and is credited with discovery of the phenomenon.

Apparently Mr. Rivers was unacquainted with the work of Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1862) who had noted it in his poem entitled:
The Blue Wood-Louse

‘Bite, frost, bite!
You roll up away from the light
The blue wood-louse, and the plump dormouse,
And the bees are still'd, and the flies are kill'd,
And you bite far into the heart of the house,
But not into mine.’

With luck, perhaps they will all become infected and die... at the very least perhaps they will feel sick.

My granddaughter Julia is totally fascinated by them~~~ in this video she is on a quest~

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