Monday, May 6, 2013

Slugs

Leopard/Tiger Slug (spotted)

Leather Leaf Slug or is it a Cuban?



Slugs, ugh!

I've never seen I many slugs until I started growing things here. First of all, they are active year around. Ya never get a break from battling them. Since organic material is always breaking down, there's always places for them to eat and hide. At first I thought they only ate green live plants, but wrong! They seem to thrive in mulch, compost, and manure that is a hundred of feet away from the nearest green plant. But they do indeed eat plenty of live plants. Boy, can they do damage in my garden.

I've got 4-5 different kinds of slugs. I'm no slug expert, so I'm not sure what all of them are. But I'm giving a good guess on these:

Tiger/leopard slug
Leather leaf slug (or maybe a Cuban)
Giant African snail
There is also a small snail, a medium sized greyish slug, small black slugs (possibly juveniles of the tiger slug? )
And a predatory snail, which is great since it eats young slugs.

Traps---
Leopard/Tiger Slug (stripped)
Beer traps: I don't place a lot of dependency upon these because of the rain here. Beer traps need rain protection, which I find to be too much trouble to do except for a few traps here and there. Besides, the slugs here have expensive taste. No Coors Light or Bud for them! Nope, they want the more malty expensive beers. The best luck I've had was with Black & Tan.  Maybe if it didn't rain so often here the traps would work better. Besides I've got another more serious problem with using beer traps....my old Border Collie loves beer! Although she knows that it's forbidden, she can't help herself at times.  Every so often I'll catch a wiff of beer-breathe when she comes into the bedroom at night. Dang, she's emptied the traps again!

Citrus cups: during parts of the year I have access to hundreds of discarded citrus. I've used orange, grapefruit, and pomelo successfully to catch slugs. I simply cut the fruit in half, give it a squeeze to get rid of some of the juice,  and put it on the ground fruit side down near the base of a plant. Early in the morning I check for slugs eating the fruit.  Time consuming, but it works for most slugs.

Pad traps: early on I discovered that slugs and snails like to hide under wet newspaper and cardboard. This set up is far the best trapping method for me. I will tie a bundle of newspaper or cardboard, making the bundle about 2 inches thick. Then I'll dunk it in water to wet the bundle a bit. Now it's ready for action. I'll place the bundle near or under the plants I wish to protect. Then in the mornings I just up end the bundle, exposing the slugs. These I pick off and drop into a jar. Later they become duck or chicken food. Time consuming but I can trap easily ten times more slugs than by using citrus traps and 30 more times than using beer traps. Over time the newspaper or cardboard breaks down , so I often will just add another wad of paper to the bottom of the bundle, and it goes back to work. Eventually the paper disintegrates too much to be used as a trap. Then I put it into the compost pile and make a new one. Pad traps work best when the days are dry and the sun is warm.

Poisons---
I'm adverse to adding poison to the soil. Besides, I fear what it might do to my chickens, ducks, cats, and dogs. Thus no Corey's Slug Bait goes into the veggie garden. 

I have had success using Sluggo (iron phosphate), which is not supposed to be toxic to my pets nor the soil, though people still refer to it as a poison. The main drawback is that it cost money. It isn't cheap.  So I tend to only use it whenever I see a major population explosion of slugs. So Sluggo isn't my number one line of defense, but it's in reserve when things get out of hand. down at the community garden a mile away, Sluggo is used to protect the gourds. It does a good job there. 

Deterrents ---
slug on coffee grounds
Coffee grounds: I've read that slugs avoid coffee grounds. I tested that out with two slugs before going ahead and treating the garden with pounds of coffee. Guess what. My two guinea pigs slugs crawled right over a row of coffee grounds with no hesitation. Thus I concluded that slugs really don't avoid coffee. 

Ashes: wood ash is another thing that people claim slugs won't touch. So I tested the theory by capturing some slugs and confronting them with a ash barrier. Guess what. They crawled right over and through it without the least bit of hesitation. So wood ash doesn't deter them. 
slug on ashes

Diatomaceous Earth: since it rains lightly 4-5 nights a week here, this is not a viable option for me. The stuff needs to be kept dry. So I don't know if slugs really avoid this or not.
slug on eggshells













Egg shells: this also failed the slug test. I tried coarsely crumbled shell, then next tried finely crushed shells. Neither slowed down the slugs for a second.  

Ground Glass:
I didn't test this theory. Who wants ground glass in their garden? Not me! 

Copper wire or foil: 
At the price of copper, a gardener would have to spend a fortune to protect a large garden area. And they will still crawl under mulch, thus avoiding any copper bands. The idea might work around the legs of a gro-table or maybe a particular pot but not in the rows of a traditional garden set up. And besides, it's not self reliant, is it? I can't mine and process my own copper. Nor do I have access to discarded copper tubing or wire. Thus I've never tried copper. I might set up a test to protect a tabletop garden, but that will have to wait until I scrounge up some copper wire. 

Predators:
Muscovy Ducks:
I learned that Muscovy ducks love certain slugs, but not all. They will eagerly nose though the mulch gobbling every leather leaf slug they find. Alas they refuse the tiger slugs. 'Tis a pity. Of course they also help themselves to nibbles of kale, lettuce, and other veggies, making them the less than ideal slug controllers. But they help. As long as I drive them through the garden so that their eye doesn't wander onto the veggies, they do a pretty nice job on the small slugs that get missed with the traps. The community garden uses muscovys for slug control too. Great ducks! 

2 comments:

  1. Aloha, Su Ba!
    Somehow I missed this post, but you know the Pacific Northwest claims to be a slug capital...meh. I wish I could revive my old computer that had pictures of some of the squishy critters I found in Maui, likely the Tiger variety you mentioned, rather black/deep brown, with a contrasting stripe along their back, several inches long, but definitely unable to fly when I flung them off the 80 - 100 foot gulch behind my house. I uncovered some of those giant snails, big as small conchs, but also utterly incapable of flight as well. Lotta fun tossing the slippery varmints on the road to see if they could sprint out of the way of the crazy kanakas roaring up and down the street. No luck. I wonder how they cut a deal with the real fliers, the birds, since I never saw any feasting on the slimers. And - you need to talk story with the folks at Costco, because they have big ole jugs of that stuff in the Oregon Costco's, at you-really-can't-not-buy-it prices. I only used it once here, because for some unknown reason, the local slugs are not messing up the place [YET]. I hope they just don't know we are here. Shhhh!

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  2. Don't worry, Barry. I'm sure the slugs will eventually find you. Then you will have the opportunity to see if Oregonian slugs can fly!

    Slug slime just totally grosses me out. I hate touching the things barehanded. My aversion to slugs will serve me well because of the rat-lung parasite problem here. It exists over in Puna but has not yet been reported in Ka'u. But it only a matter of time before it travels around the whole island. so my battle against slugs and their slug slime will help keep the parasite from getting a foot hold on my farm.

    I'm normally not cruel to animals, but I really don't mind killing slugs any way that I can. When working on the farm one of the tools that dangles from my belt is a scissors. It comes in handy to cut slugs and centipedes in half when I happen upon one.

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