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You wouldn’t think it, but we have billions of crustaceans running around Camp Salmen. No, not crawfish, shrimp, lobsters or crabs, it’s the one we don’t pay much attention to because they are so small and stay down low - the lowly Doodlebug (Armadillidium vulgare). It’s a little quarter inch long isopod also known as a pill bug, sow bug, woodlouse or rollie-pollie. Some consider them nothing more than “harmless garden pests” and actually seek to kill them with garden pesticides!  Personally, I have a soft spot for them because I’ve known them since I was a wee lad plus I’ve developed a reverence for anything that’s been on the planet for 300 hundred million years, a time before the dinosaurs, back when they were making coal.

And what do doodle bugs do? They are decomposers,  “detritivores” who eat detritus, the leftovers of life, discarded leaves, mown grass, fallen limbs, etcetera. They help turn this stuff into soil. And how do they do it? Watch one closely; they go “doodle, doodle, doodle” as they trundle about on their fourteen legs looking for detritus. When they find it, they use a specially adapted eighth pair of legs to stuff what passes for their faces with detritus. What comes out the other end is soil.

When they get frightened they have enough segments to roll themselves into a tiny little balls. This is known as their “pill mode” (thus the nameArmadillidium, as in armadillo). They stay that way until they think it’s safe, and then they unroll themselves like tiny little Transformers and resume their merciless hunt for detritus.

In case you’re still not impressed, go on-line and check out the ghastly Bathynomus giganteualso known as the Giant Isopod,Mr. Doodlebug’s close cousin. These are four pound pink versions of Armadillidium thateat whale carcasses and whatever and whoever else drifts down to the deepest, darkest parts of the ocean. I doubt if they taste like lobster. You’ll be glad all we have are doodlebugs.

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