Is this bug good or bad for my soil?

(Question)

Hi Master Gardener,

I have some container plantings on the balcony. The soil is the regular black soil. Usually, the container would be moved into the house during the winter time.

I found there is lots of this kind of bugs in the soil, they came out to the surface when watering. In this container, I planted a fig tree last year. It bears couple fruits right now, but the leaves start to dry out recently and which seems like not a good sign. So, I am wondering if this kind of bug would be the problem. Please find the attached photo for your reference.

Thank you very much for your time and patient for my question. Your generosity will be truly appreciated.

(Answer)

The bug in question is either a sowbug or pillbug. Pillbugs and sowbugs are crustaceans that closely resemble each other. Pillbugs refer to those species that can roll up into a tight ball when disturbed. Sowbugs refer to those species that physically cannot roll up. Sowbugs and pillbugs are not able to retain water in their bodies, so they spend most of their time in damp places. Outdoors they hide under logs, rocks, flowerpots, mulch, anywhere it is damp and dark. In order to conserve moisture, theses bugs are usually active at night and usually  feed on dead, decaying plant debris, but are known to occasionally feed on the lower leaves of tender garden seedlings.

The key to dealing with pillbugs and sowbugs is to minimize the high moisture conditions these bugs require to survive and to remove any decaying leaf debris on the soil surface. By watering plants early in the day allows the soil surface dries out by nighttime, when pillbugs and sowbugs are most active.  Always repot your plants with clean fresh potting mix before bringing plants indoors.

The following website gives additional information on these little crustaceans: https://www.cals.uidaho.edu/edcomm/pdf/CIS/CIS1169.pdf

Leaf drop is a common response of fig trees when they experience any type of stress such as overwatering, underwatering, moving from outdoors to indoors, drafts, and low light. Shedding of bright yellow leaves may be an indication of  an underwatering. Shedding of green, immature leaves or leaves at the branch tips may indicate overwatering or the result of low light or draft. A sudden drop of healthy leaves after moving the plant to a new location is a normal response that can last for several weeks.

Please refer to the following website for detailed information on how to care for your ficus tree: https://byf.unl.edu/Ficus

Good Luck and continue enjoyment of  this beautiful plant.