Thursday, September 19, 2013

Grey bug of moisture - the Woodlouse!

Whenever I get some itchy skin rashes, my mother attributed it to the bite of a bug. Wondering about what it could be, I searched for it near me; but could not find one. One day my mother pointed out to that bug: it was greyish on its back and whitish underneath; its body was segmented; it was about 6mm in length.
It was not seen on open ground - but under moist clothes such as native door-mats that are drying out. When you lift up the edge of these clothes you shall see surely these bugs running here and there on the ground - both the adults and young ones. This bug is called as Woodlouse (Porcellio scabei, Woodbug, Slates, 'Baymootai' in Tamil). But here in South India, apart from wood source, it is also seen on the moist soil found below stones. It has fourteen jointed legs. It breathes through the lungs present in its hind legs! It moults in two stages unlike other bugs. It feeds nocturnally on dead plant materials. Female carries fertilised eggs in a sac under its body till they hatch into small white young ones. Woodlouse Spider is its main predator.
This wonder bug, though induces itchy feeling, does not produce any disease and it is a farmer's friend just like our earthworms!

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