I was rather startled recently to learn that sometimes pill bugs and sow bugs eat crop plants. I had always thought of them as gentle tenders of the soil, never as a potential problem for my crops. I planted the three sisters in the new garden plot out in back. Traditionally the three sisters are corn, beans, and squash. Instead of squash, I planted other members of the squash family; cucumbers, watermelons, and cantaloupe. The corn and squash-type plants are doing fine, but when the bean plants were still very small, I found them literally covered with pill bugs and sow bugs, and I could see the bugs eating. They were eating the bean seedlings. I had planted 30 corn plants, with three been seeds per corn plant. Only a very small handful – not more than seven or eight bean plants – survived. This came as a big shock to me, and I spent some time searching for information about pill bugs eating crops. There seems to be quite a bit of controversy around this subject. Some people are very adamant that pill bugs and sow bugs pose no threat whatever to crops. Other people, like myself, have seen them eating their crops, and they know that these bugs do sometimes pose a threat to crops.
Some people suggested putting diatomaceous earth down on the soil around the bean plants. I put a lot of diatomaceous earth down around the plants, but it had no effect at all. I resigned myself to the idea of not having any beans this summer until I found the few surviving bean plants. Some people said that pill bugs and sow bugs only eat plants that are under stress. Someone else said that seedlings are by definition under stress. Maybe the heat contributed to their stress, I don’t know. I think I’ll plant some more been seeds for a fall crop and see if more of them survive this time. Maybe I’ll put a lot more than just three seeds at the base of every corn plant to give them a fighting chance. We’ll see.