• John R

Don't Foodle with Your Doodle


As a wildlife aficionado, I can say with unmitigated pleasure that our outdoor environment is fairly crawling with wildlife. Literally crawling, actually. Sure, there’s the occasional bird or bee. Boring! Who doesn’t have those? I’m talking about the industrious albeit slow-moving Armadillidium vulgare which, despite being not-at-all handsome (note the vulgare genus designation that is scientific nomenclature for yuck!), is owner of some of the cutest nicknames in the animal kingdom, including pill bug, potato bug, roly-poly, and my personal fav, doodle bug.



Doodle bugs feed on dead and decaying matter, which we have in abundance and not necessarily by choice, which is why they find our yard an especially convivial place to party. We find them throughout the warmer months but especially in spring when little half-inch-long doodles emerge from their cozy burrows of dead stuff and start crawling about the smorgasbord of decaying matter that our garden offers. We find them everywhere on the concrete patio, which for creatures in search of organic munchies doesn’t say a lot about their intelligence. Nevertheless they are harmless little buggers.



The really adorable thing about doodle bugs is that when disturbed, they curl themselves up into tight little balls. If you are so inclined to certain types of low-grade entertainment, you can flick these little balls all over your concrete patio. Being almost perfectly spherical, they’ll roll for impressive distances, you have it on my personal authority.

Thanks to their tough, multi-segmented exoskeletons, you can’t harm doodle bugs while doing these important biological experiments in rollability. Their shells—which are made up of rows of crystallized calcite and an endocuticle of amphorous calcium carbonate (like you didn’t know that)—allow them to ball up inside tough, flexible armored sheaths. Ping! And away they go!


Unfortunately, their instinct for self-preservation is also a source of distress. When a balled up Armadillidium decides the coast is clear (it’s not, heh heh), it unfolds itself, invariably onto its back. In this position, it’s difficult for it to right itself. What ensues is much rocking back and forth and waving of its seven pairs of tiny pereopods (legs—again, you probably knew that one). Should an earnest bio-experimenter have a twinge of guilt and attempt to help the little critter turn itself right-side up, it will immediately curl back into its defensive ball. Under these seemingly no-win circumstances, it’s a wonder that doodle bugs have survived for epochs relatively unchanged.

Should an upside-down doodle happen to you, you have two choices: Either leave it alone until it rights itself and returns to its prime directive of eating dead stuff (the preferred choice), or you can imagine it's the 18th at Pebble Beach and you need to putt this one 12 feet into an oak leaf to win the championship and etch your name in history. It depends on your tolerance for low-grade entertainment.

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