When I was bored as a child, and my mom kicked me out of the house, I would go outside and search for roly polies. On the tiny island where we lived, they weren’t easy to find. When we camp, or when we traveled to my grandparents’ house in the country, they seemed to be everywhere, but they were not abundant on our little coastal island.
I’d walk up and down the sandy road, along the edge, where grass hung over the rutted dirt. The edge was where roly polies seemed most likely to crawl out. It often took a half hour or more to find one, if I found one at all. When I did finally see a grey armored oval trundle out, I’d poke its hard shell and watch it roll into a ball. I loved that quick, protective reaction.
Some people call roly polies pill bugs, I’m not sure whether for their oval shape when they’re open, or the spherical shape when they’re rolled up. Either way, they were fun to play with, the way they instantly reacted to touch.
I remember a plant that reacted the same way — a mimosa plant, I think it was called. The “sensitive plant.” It has feathery compound leaves, like a fern. The leaves are light and delicate, so that the green is more of a yellow-green because sunlight shines through them. When you touch the fronds of a mimosa, they fold up instantly, just like a roly poly. Just like shy person when attention is called to them. Duck and cover, to protect the vital parts.
I touched and smelled and picked and poked at all the plants and small creatures I could find in our neighborhood. Poor caterpillars. I always wanted to watch them build their cocoons. I punched holes in the metal lids of jars, stuffed in leaves and a twig to build a crysalis on, and placed the caterpillars in their new glass homes. God only knows how many caterpillars I killed.
I’ll make it up to them in the spring, when we plant our butterfly garden.
For the month of November, I am participating in NaBloPoMo and plan to publish every day of the month. Usually, I will publish a 10-minute free write, initiated by a prompt from my prompt box. Minimal editing. No story. Just thoughts spilling onto the page. Follow along with the tag #NovemberDaily.
8 thoughts on “Roly Polies”
This brought back memories. I don’t remember why, but I knew them as soldier bugs. Probably because of their armor-like coat. My first memory of playing with them is at a rest area out west during a road trip from Florida to California when I was eight. I was fascinated by them and the way they rolled up when disturbed.
The other bugs I loved to play with were doodle-bugs, the creatures that waited at the bottom of sand craters for ants and other bugs to fall into. I would scoop up the doodle bug and crater in my palm and feel the tickle when the doodle-bug burrowed down and against my hand. I can still feel the tickle.
Excellent post! 🙂
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I remember those! Oh wow, I had completely forgotten about those sand traps for ants. I could watch those traps all day when I was a kid. Thank you for sparking that memory 🙂
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And sea urchins! Those were (and still are!) my favorite to touch and watch close around your finger!! 🙂
We called them armadillo bugs!
Reminds me of Roly Poly Oly (I dont think I spelled that correctly lol)
In NZ the pill-bugs are called slaters or woodlice. We used to play with them all the time as kids. I was always fascinated by their antennae. Interestingly enough, they are crustaceans – even though they are terrestrial.
Great childhood memories!
Although I’m still fairly young, this definitely brought back some nice memories from when I was a much younger girl 🙂
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