Pests- Snails and Slugs

I have written about some indoor pests, like aphids, root aphids, white flies, spider mitessoil/root gnats but there are others that often don’t get in your house but can be a pest outdoors. Most plants can be a meal to snails and slugs. Slugs and snails can rasp (eat) a hole in leaves or sometimes they eat everything but the veins of a leaf. In severe cases they will eat whole leaves leading you to think it was a larger animal. For a while I could not figure out what was eating my plants, it looked as if a deer had jumped the fence and eaten the plant leaving only the main stem. Problem was there were no deer tracks in the soft garden soil. Slugs generally are more active at night, so they don’t dry out and often go unseen. I had a friend once that went out to check on his garden at night with a flashlight for fun and was FREAKED out when he saw his beloved plants COVERED in dozens of slimy slugs eating away at the leaves. This was a wet year, and you too will find more slugs and snails in wet years or moist areas.

The best thing about slugs and snails is that they are easy to control. You just need to use sluggo. This is iron phosphate in pellet form which in the soil actually is a fertilizer. However, when a slug crawls over the pellets their soft bodies absorb the iron phosphate which interferes with the slugs calcium metabolism so that it stops eating and starves in a few days.  You can use as directed and even if you don't have slugs/snails it won't harm your plants and will provide some nutrients, so  if you see slugs in your garden, why not give it a try? 

If you don't use sluggo and have a random slug or snail you can control them by hand picking them off your plants and put them in salt water or soapy water or just stomp them. If you have a lot you should order some sluggo but should pluck them off with a tweezers or even chop sticks, if you use your hands you will get all slimy. You can use salt water to kill slugs but NEVER put salt on the soil, don’t get me wrong it will kill slugs, AND YOUR PLANTS. Salts make it hard for plants to take up water and nutrients so they dehydrate even in moist soil.

I have read you can surround individual plants with a copper barrier which keeps the slugs out. I’d like to hear if anyone has ever used this. I have tried egg shells and either I did not use enough or they did not work. I scattered the shells on the ground since they are supposed to cut the slugs and snails. I think you may be better off if you make a solid ring around your plants’ stem. Bonus is that eggs shells release calcium as they breakdown which is an essential nutrient for plants.

Here is my favorite  You can also use beer as a trap for slugs, Yep they come running like frat boys to free beer. You need to get a container that is deep enough so the slugs can’t climb out, put it in the ground and put in a bit ‘o’ beer. I drink Pabst in the summer myself and slugs love it too. Slugs will come crawling for any beer for meters around and then will drown in the beer. IMPORTANT If the container is not filled deep enough (several cm or inches) they will just have a drink and leave.

Good Growing
Dr. E.R. Myers

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