Slug Patrol: Tricks for Pest Management

| 4/1/2016 9:17:00 AM


Slugs. Before I moved to the Pacific Northwest, there was an occasional nasty encounter; when I arrived  here and planted beans, I had stumps one day after full-on leaves. Slugs are a menace and dealing with them organically and effectively can be a challenge.

There are three varieties of slug in my neighborhood. The first, the banana slug (Ariolimax columbianus) is a rather handsome fellow, encountered in Doug Fir forests. They are olive green with darker markings and usually sport a decorative fan of fir needles attached to the back end. They move slowly across trails, eat forest duff, and do not come downhill into my urban farm.

The common garden slug (Deroceras reticulatum) is a greater problem. They are much smaller — about an inch or two long — a disagreeable grey color all over, and hearty eaters. What a few garden slugs can do to a daffodil is really not pleasant to encounter. However, I think the worst slug, for damage, is the tiny mini-slug, less a than a centimeter long, and pale grey, which lurk under leaves and chow twenty four hours a day. The mini-slug is a gardener’s worst nightmare.

There are many opinions on how to deal with slugs. The most popular—and least effective, in my yard — is the beer trap. First, the trap fills up with rain water, diluting the beer.  Pacific Northwest slugs are onto this concept. They wander over, give the sour cream container a sniff, and turn away.

We know the beer trick, they say, and we don’t drink cheap beer. We have regional pride. I have found them collected on the rim of the container, peering down, but not moving in. When they do occasionally fall in, the result is slug plus beer — not good early in the morning. Finally, buying 40 ouncers at the local grocery, as a high school English teacher, is just not good PR. “Sure, it’s for the slugs,” my students nod. Then word gets around: our essays are driving Ms Ellis to drink.

4/4/2016 10:25:50 AM

You were fortunate with your chickens. Mine uprooted my entire garden the first year and there was nothing left. I used a fence the next year. As for planting seedlings, here in the Midwest, the slugs like them too. Beer worked pretty well and the chickens ate the drowned slugs. But this year I'm trying DE around the base of my plants to see if that's effective. I also tried crushed egg shells which helped but I needed a lot more shells than I could manage.

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