The Case of The Blue PillbugReturning to the rear door of my garage after photographing insects in my backyard I spotted a pillbug on the bricks outside the door. Spotting pillbugs is nothing new, they are all over the place. Anyplace that is dark and damp will have its share of roly polies, as they are sometimes called. There was something quite unusual about this pillbug, however, it was blue!!! Not just a hint of blue if you looked at it just right, but a solid shade of blue as you can see in the photo below.
I had photographed pillbugs before but knew very little about them. I knew they were not insects but were crustaceans, I knew they rolled up into little balls when frightened and I knew they liked dark damp environments. With so little knowledge about this species I knew there was no way to determine why this guy was blue unless I found the answer on the web - and I did.
Debbie Hadley wrote an article titled "10 Cool Facts About Pillbugs" (http://insects.about.com/od/isopods/a/10-facts-pillbugs.htm). I was not aware of most of these facts before reading her article:
1. Pillbugs are crustaceans, not insects. (I knew this one)
2. Pillbugs breathe through gills.
3. A juvenile pillbug molts in two sections.
4. Pillbug mothers carry their eggs in a pouch.
5. Pillbugs don't urinate. (now I don't have to worry about them peeing all over my bricks!)
6. A pillbug can drink with its anus. (I knew some college fraternity guys like that!!!)
7. Pillbugs curl into tight balls when threatened. (I knew this one, also)
8. Pillbugs eat their own poop. (I wish politicians practiced this instead of just dishing it out!)
9. Sick pillbugs turn bright blue. (explains why my little guy was blue - he has a viral infection, iridovirus, which causes reflected light to be blue)
10. A pillbug's blood is blue because they have hemocyanin in their blood instead of hemoglobin. (that would do it!!!)