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Reddish Vale Country Park

Woodlouse

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reddish vale country park

Woodlice may look like insects, but they are in fact crustaceans and are related to crabs and lobsters.

 

There are thought to be around 3,500 species worldwide with 35-40 of them being found in the UK.

 

Woodlice like damp, dark places and can be found hiding in walls, under stones, rotting wood and compost heaps. Some species like the common sea slater are only found on the coast.

 

Although regarded as a pest when they invade homes, they actually do more good than harm.

 

A woodlouse has 14 legs and an outer shell called an exoskeleton. When a woodlouse grows to big for its shell it has to moult to allow a new shell to take its place. Moulting takes place in two stages, first the back half is shed and then a day or so later the front half falls off.

Woodlice have a pair of antennae to help them find their way around, and two small tubes called uropods sticking out of the back of their bodies.

The uropods help them to navigate and some species use them to produce chemicals to discourage predators.

A common woodlouse can live for 3-4 years. Woodlice are eaten by many animals including birds, centipedes, toads, shrews and some species of spiders will also eat them.

 

In the past having woodlice in your house was considered unlucky, and any food they walked over was said to be poisoned. Eaten alive, woodlice were thought to be a cure for stomach upsets and diseases of the liver.

 

Like most crustaceans  woodlice are edible, and are advocated by many survival experts as an alternative food source. Some even suggest that as a sea food sauce, the flavour of the woodlouse is superior to that of prawns, I haven't put this to the test myself and wouldn't recomend anyone else did so either!

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Reddish Vale Country Park

Woodlouse