In grassland populations of the woodlice Armadillidium vulgare and Porcellio scaber (Latreille) the sex ratio in hand collections from beneath wooden offcuts and roofing tiles varied through the breeding season. The proportion of males was higher in these collections from surface refugia than in independent estimates of the population sex ratio taken from soil cores. Collections became female-biased in June and July when most females were carrying broods, most notably in P. scaber. It is suggested that males use surface shelter between foraging events. A. vulgare males are particularly abundant under boards in May as they become active on the soil surface in order to locate mates. Females may find the higher and more equable temperatures in refugia attractive because they reduce brood development time but the cost of this advantage is the risk of failure to balance moisture requirements. These patterns of habitat use by the sexes have important implications for several population processes, the evolution of life-history tactics and the development of mating systems in these species.