Friday, October 14, 2011

Slugs and Snails

What to do about these pesky slugs?

Even though there are nine different varieties of slugs and about two dozen varieties of land and freshwater snails, all it takes is a few in your garden to devour a newly planted seed bed.  Slugs thrive in humid and wet places.  They commonly feed on decaying vegetable matter, leaves, flowers, trunks and roots, but they will also feed on earthworms, molds and dead insects. Slugs are nocturnal and seek shelter underneath rocks and boards and in damp refuse and mulch.  They are extremely susceptible to drying out. 

There are several different ways to control slugs and snails.
·        Biological – There are many natural predators of slugs including toads, predacious beetles, birds, ducks and chickens. 
·        Mechanical –  Trap boards are an easy way to rid the garden of slugs.  Simply place a board, any manageable size, near slug activity.  Place one end of the board on a small rock, or another object in order to give it enough lift for the slugs to crawl under.  This board then becomes a good hiding place for the slugs.  After a few days to a week, turn over the board and see how many slugs are resting underneath.   Discard slugs in a manner of your choice.  

Gardeners can also collect slugs early in the morning or in the evening to reduce their numbers. Copper screening or foil placed around items like flower pots, raised beds and greenhouse table legs will keep slugs out. 
 Beer traps (small cans buried at ground level filled with beer) are popular in ridding the garden of slugs and snails. However, this method is not very effective for the labor involved.  The traps attract slugs within an area of only a few feet, and must be refilled every few days.  It is the fermented product that attracts them, so a sugar-water and yeast mixture could be used in place of beer.

·        Cultural – A cheap and safe method of controlling slugs, although not always practical, is sanitation.  This involves eliminating their hiding and breeding places by raking up the leaves, discarding boards, logs and other such debris.

·        Chemical – Baits containing the active ingredient metaldehyde are very effective in controlling slugs.  Be careful when using these products around pets.  If pets ingest this bait, it can be fatal.
Other products, with the active ingredient iron phosphate, are also effective against slugs.  According to their label, they can be used around pets and wildlife. When using these, and any other pesticide, always read the label carefully, and follow all instructions.