A Good Relationship

x3 images. Double click to enlarge.

Introducing the Ant Woodlouse Platyarthrus hoffmannseggii. Growing up to a length of 5 mm (1/4 in), it is blind and spends all of its life underground. It is always nearly found in association with ants within their nests where they have a good relationship. The woodlouse is tolerated and is not under any threat, most likely because it acts as a house keeper for the ants, feeding on their ant droppings hence keeping the nest clean.

A fairly slow-moving woodlouse, and the darkish stripe along the back is the contents of the gut showing through the cuticle. It is widespread across southern Britain, less so and becoming much rarer further north.

Common Striped Woodlouse


Common Striped Woodlouse Philoscia muscorum

Philoscia muscorum has a dark stripe along the centre of its back. One of the ‘famous 5’ very common British species of woodlouse most likely to be seen.


Common Striped Woodlouse Philoscia muscorum

Seen all year round, it forages for dead organic matter on which it feeds during the cover of night, hiding under stones, bark or logs during the day.


Common Striped Woodlouse Philoscia muscorum

Woodlice can be quite a challenge to photo, not just because of their small size, but because they generally run off and hide again when disturbed. The camera flash can be problematic, too, for it tends to bounce off the shiny surface of the exoskeleton expressing ugly highlights. A diffuser helps, but control of the light can still be a challenge. To add, narrowing the aperture to around f/36 to get as much detail as possible means flash is essential. You are also outside of the ‘sweet spot’ for sharpness, but all depends on your lens and camera, too. And without a tripod, a steady hand is needed, so bracing on ‘anything’ using ‘everything’ is key.

Common Striped Woodlouse Philoscia muscorum

Equipment: Nikon D7200 with Sigma 105 mm macro lens and Raynox 250 convertor lens. Nikon Speedlight with plastic direct fitting diffuser and fabric diffuser on lens. Hand held. Settings: f/36. 1/160 sec. ISO-320. A little post-processing applied.


More Under The Flowerpot

Common Pygmy Woodlouse Trichoniscus pusillus agg

This tiny little woodlouse is called the Common Pygmy Woodlouse Trichoniscus pusillus agg. There were quite a number of these under a flowerpot I lifted up. They grow up to 5mm in length and there are two forms which are very hard to separate hence the agg. Examples infected with iridovirus can be found, which gives them a vivid purple sheen. Very common in damp soil and leaf litter, and the most abundant species found in woodland all over the British Isles.

Click and click again on the images to get that little bit closer …


June 2019, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Crustaceans In The Garden

Common Rough Woodlouse Porcellio scaber

Its amazing what you kind find just turning over a leaf in your garden. This is the Common Rough Woodlouse Porcellio scaber.

Click and click again on the images to get that little bit closer …


June 2019, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Pill Woodlouse

Armadillidium vulgare

This woodlouse rolls itself up into a tight ball when threatened. They are light brown to purplish-black in colour, or grey and mottled yellow. They have several plates at the rear which help distinguish it from similar pill millipedes, and have fewer legs. Underneath, towards the rear, it has pale patches which are 2 pairs of lungs. Often confused with the Pill Millipede (Glomeris marginata). Length 18mm.

After dark they forage for dead organic matter.

Seen all year round. Found in various places, including woodland, hedgerows and gardens. It can tolerate drier conditions than other species of woodlice. Common and widespread throughout.

Photographs taken May 2014, rear garden, on patio, Staffordshire.

Common Striped Woodlouse

Philoscia muscorum

It is grey-brown in colour, with a dark head and dorsal stripe. Length 11mm.

Seen after dark where they forage for dead organic matter.

Seen all year round. Found in damp leaf litter, under rocks and stones in various habitats, including gardens. Common and widespread.

Photographs taken May 2014, rear garden, found under stone, Staffordshire.

Common Rough Woodlouse

Porcellio scaber

This woodlouse is narrower than the Common Shiny Woodlouse (Oniscus asellus), and greyer, although it can also appear mottled and lighter in colour. It has a rough surface, covered in tiny bumps, The end of the antennae (flagellum) is in two segments. Length 10mm.

After dark they forage for dead organic matter.

Seen all year round. Found in a wide variety of habitats, including woodland, hedgerows, waste ground, and quite numerous in gardens. They shelter under rocks or stones, rotting logs or plant detritus. This woodlouse may also be found inside dwellings, and can withstand more drier conditions compared to other species of woodlice. Probably the most common woodlouse found in Britain. Common and widespread throughout.

Photographs taken March and April 2014, rear garden, found under rotting log, Staffordshire