the secret life of woodlice

It’s funny what you learn when you have a four year old.

Ours has been fascinated by garden creatures since she was tiny. So back in August we made an insect hotel. We hoped it might provide a winter resting place for bees and ladybirds. Perhaps a few toads would move in at the bottom.

insect hotel, cottage garden, gardening blog

Since we were replacing the veg garden fence at the time, we had plenty of wood kicking about the place. The insect hotel turned into quite a grand affair. Although I think you can see why we don’t get on very well with DIY in the house…

insect hotel, cottage garden, gardening blog

little bit wonky…

Next we filled it with sticks, logs, fir cones, pots stuffed with straw and random stuff, like a bird box we’ve never got round to putting up.

insect hotel pots

A few days later, M started school and we didn’t pay it any attention for a while.

Then the nights started drawing in. One evening we were wandering around out there with the dogs and discovered a  colony of woodlice have taken command of the place. During the day they are nowhere to be seen, but in the dark hundreds of them swarm around it busily doing whatever woodlice do.

M checking out insect hotel at night

Apart from feeling a bit guilty whenever I move a pot and see woodlice scurrying for cover, I’ve never really given them much thought. But it turns out they are quite interesting little things.

I’d always naively assumed they were insects. In fact they are 14-legged crustaceans. There are 3,500 species in the world – about 35 of these can be found in the UK. They live up to four years and play an important role eating and breaking down dead and rotting vegetation in the garden. If you’re really unlucky they might eat young seedlings – but not so much that they could be considered a pest.

2014-10-09 21.10.10 (2)

As you can see, I’ve been doing a bit of research. But one thing I cannot get to the bottom of is something Steve caught them doing a couple of nights ago. Several of them appeared to be tending to a couple of red blobs on the end of a log.

what is the red blob?

what is the red blob?

We wondered if it might be a nest of eggs. Then we thought it might be some sort of fungus they were feeding on. We left them to it, but the next day all that was left was some dried up remains. If you have any idea what they might have been up to, we’d love to know.

...this is all that was left the next morning

…this is all that was left the next morning

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