Shades of grey

Bellenden Road, or ‘Bellenden Village’ as it is now known, is turning grey. It seems the local shopkeepers have got hold of a job-lot of grey paint and are liberally splashing it over their shop fronts – Flock & Herd the butchers, Anderson & Co the cafe/deli, General Store which sells artisan food items, Bias the boutique (who have added a hint of blue to their grey), and now the local Payless who have decided to change their name to Village Grocer and paint the frontage… grey. Delving into the world of paint colour swatches these greys have fancy names: Urban Obsession, Brushed Clay, City Break, Night Fever, Blizzard… None, though, are called ‘Woodlouse’.

Common woodlouse Oniscus asellus

Common rough woodlouse Porcellio scaber

Woodlice are numerous in Warwick Gardens. These little crustaceans play an important role in our ecosystem breaking down wood and leaf matter. The best place to find them during the day is under logs where they share their habitat with other mulch munchers such as earwigs and worms, as well as in wall and bark crevices. They emerge at night to feed and socialise. The rough woodlouse is typically dark grey with irregular patches in lighter shades of grey and is covered in tiny tubercles giving it a rough and non-shiny appearance. Woodlice are one of the few crustaceans that live permanently on dry land. 

Woodlouse spider

Woodlouse spider Dysdera crocata

Woodlice have many natural predators, forming a large part of the diet to some creatures and an occasional snack to others. Common shrews are know to consume vast numbers of woodlice. Hedgehogs, toads, frogs and newts also eat them and foxes are known to include them in their diets. Its most fearsome adversary is the Woodlouse spider Dysdera crocata, seizing woodlice in it’s pincer-like jaws and injecting them with a poison that kills in a few seconds. Its also one of the ugliest spiders I have ever seen!

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