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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/glow in the dark pill bugs?


Mike Mick wrote at 2010-10-05 03:03:07
Hey there, just wanted to add my two cents. We recently had a campout with a group of boy scouts in Northern KY area. Overnight we discovered slow blinking lights, somewhat dimmer than a firefly has. Upon closer inspection it looked just like a pillbug, with the portion that lit up being it's 'hind end'. I'd never seen such a thing before and am now kicking myself for not getting a picture of the thing. It wasn't just one either, they were all over. They didn't look anything like the pictures linked above.  Strange, I know!

Nicholas Tuper wrote at 2011-04-12 05:09:06
I actually found some as well... collected a few of them. The ones we found looked like a potato bug. Really cool. And they were glowing a very bright, but dark green.

Nicholas Tuper wrote at 2011-04-12 05:13:14
Myself and some friends found the same exact thing in Western New York!! We actually collected a few of them!

Hiker wrote at 2011-08-23 03:29:53
Just saw many glowing pill bugs last night in a campground in Natural bridge state park in kentucky.  I have yet to see an adequate scientific description anywhere.


Fascinating:  slower, dimmer, less intense cycling than lightning bug

debtom wrote at 2011-09-28 04:47:29
same experience camping last weekend in metcalfe county ky, i thought they were lightning bugs that were sluggish due to the chill, upon further inspection i saw what look like a large pill bug, gray w/ lots of legs.  can't find any explanation on the web.

getatme08 wrote at 2012-05-22 17:52:56
i live in north east Ohio and i have seen these glow in the dark roly-polys and they were glowing a white or light aqua color. i put a few in a jar when i was fishing one night and the next morning i looked at them and they were gray in color in the light and were identical to a pill bug(roly-poly)they were not larva of any sort and were walking around

getatme08 wrote at 2012-05-22 18:10:51
pill bug or roly polly are part of a large family of animals with exoskeletons called arthropods. categorized in the isopods/crustaceans part of the arthropod family pill bugs which are able to glow in the dark and in the moonlight or under black light will glow pink, aqua, or light green

Paul wrote at 2016-02-07 09:37:22
I've seen them also in eastern PA.

SEPTEMBER 1998  By Tom Turpin Professor of Entomology Purdue University

Sep 10, 1998 - They produce a constant glow, which is the basis for their name. ... glowworms resemble those creatures we know as pill bugs or sow bugs.

My entomology Professor at the time never knew of them either.  

JL wrote at 2016-02-21 20:45:53
I have seen the same thing near creeks in Illinois. The rear most segment of the animal glows and it is not a female glow worm. It looks exactly like a pill bug.  

Ron wrote at 2016-09-03 04:13:45
I started seeing these glow in the dark Rolly-Poly/Pill bugs about 20 years ago in the Red River Gorge area in KY every year when camping. Last year I started seeing them in Northern Kentucky in my yard, and now I have thousands of them all through my grass.

It's actually a big light show between them and the lighting bugs flying around.

Bruce wrote at 2016-11-10 02:15:00
These "glowing pill bugs" sound like the insects I have in my yard (MARION Co Florida 100 yards from the Oclawaha River . Mine are flatter, darker and about 25% smaller than the usual " roly-poly pill bugs ". Their tail end comes to a point and emits a "brighter than a lightning bug" green-blue light. They seem to occur in my lawn at soil level. Damp soil and about 60 degrees F.  

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Ed Saugstad


Will accept most questions in general entomology, including those related to medical entomology, taxonomy, ecology, arthropod surveillance, and pest management. If you are requesting a 'mystery bug' identification, PLEASE either attach an image to your question, or post an image on a web page (such as Flickr) so that I can look at it, as verbal descriptions frequently are insufficient for a definitive identification.


21 years in the U.S. Army as a medical entomologist; duties varied from surveillance of pest populations (including mosquitoes, cockroaches, ticks, and stored products pests) to conducting research on mosquito-virus ecological relationships and mosquito faunal studies. Ten years as a civilian analyst for the Department of Defense, primarily on distribution of vector-borne diseases worldwide. Limited experience on surveillance of agricultural insects in North Dakota and Indiana.

Entomological Society of America, West Virginia Entomological Society, Society for Vector Ecology, National Speleological Society, West Virginia Association for Cave Studies.

American Journal of Public Health, Contributions of the American Entomological Institute, Japanese Journal of Sanitary Zoology, Journal of Economic Entomology, Mosquito News, and Mosquito Systematics.

B.S. in entomology from North Dakota State University in 1963, M.S. in entomology from Purdue University in 1967.

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