Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Sow Bugs (Isopoda)

General Information about Sow Bugs (Isopoda)
Life history Sow bugs live their entire life in the water and usually live only one year. Females carry the eggs in a pouch on the bottom of their body until the hatched eggs are 20-30 days old.
Diversity There is one family of freshwater sow bugs in North America. There are many other kinds that live in marine or terrestrial environments.
Flattened body; 7 pairs of legs; body is segmented with the last segment larger than the rest; last pair of legs looks like a pair of flat tails; 2 pair of antennae (one short , one long).
Habitat & Feeding Sow bugs may be found in seeps, springs, and small spring-fed streams, streams, underground water, ponds, and shallow lakes. Sow bugs are omnivores, feeding on both plant and animal material; usually decaying plant material and dead animal matter.
Water quality indicator status Sow bugs are tolerant of organic pollution and are good indicators of recovery in areas that have been affected by sewage pollution.
Fun facts
  • Most of the freshwater aquatic sow bugs (about 130 different kinds) in North America belong to one family-Asellidae.
  • The pouch females use to hold their young is called a marsupium.