Trachelipus rathkii (Brandt, 1833)

Common name

Rathke's Woodlouse


Trachelipus rathkei (Brandt, 1833)


GB IUCN status: Least Concern

ID Difficulty


Trachelipus rathkii  is a large woodlouse up to 15 mm body length. It is often slate-grey in colour, with usually with pale areas giving the impression of three thin longitudinal stripes, but females may be attractively marked with orange mottling. The combination of five pairs of pleopodal lungs (see images) and two flagellal segments distinguish T. rathkii from similar species. 

Despite this, it is frequently confused with the common Oniscus asellus (which has three flagellal segments) and the equally common Porcellio scaber (which has two pairs of pleopodal lungs).

J.P. Richards
Keith Lugg
Keith Lugg
Alan Outen
J.P. Richards
Keith Lugg
Keith Lugg


Trachelipus rathkii has a ‘clumpy’ distribution across south-eastern England, with isolated records in Wales (Jones, 2008), but is probably under-recorded. For example, it has been recently found by Jon Daws in Yorkshire (BMIG Newsletter 30, pg3) and along the river Avon in Worcestershire (Farmer, 2021). It has not been recorded from Ireland. 

Recently a single male specimen was collected from a garden centre near Edinburgh (BMIG Newsletter 47, pg 13) suggesting that it may be spread further afield via the horticultural trade.

[NBN records on the west coast need to be verified]. 


It favours sites with impeded drainage and is tolerant of flooding, making it a characteristic woodlouse of riverside meadows.  It also inhabits poorly drained scrub, eroding ‘soft’ cliffs, gravel pits, churchyards, etc. 

It occurs under stones and dead wood, beneath bark on logs, amongst grass litter, within tussocks and amongst flood debris. On flood plains it may be the dominant species, but elsewhere often associated with other ‘large’ woodlice, such as Porcellio scaber and Oniscus asellus and Philoscia muscorum.

This summary is based on the detailed account in Gregory (2009).


Daws, J. (2014) Trachelipus rathkei found in Yorkshire. BMIG Newsletter 30: p3. 

Farmer, G. (2021) The discovery of the woodlouse Trachelipus rathkii during 2020 in the Vale of
Evesham and surrounding area. Worcestershire Record 48: 43-45.

Gregory, S. (2009) Woodlice and Waterlice (Isopoda: Oniscidea & Asellota) in Britain and Ireland.  Field Studies Council/Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.

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