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Seventeen Sure-Fire Ways To Stop Slimy Slugs
(…and one tantalizing futurepossibility)

Q. I am writing to you from TheUnited Arab Emirates, where the weather is often lovely, the sun isalways warm and the flowers grow beautifully-but my garden is adisaster area. It has been invaded by hundreds of tiny little snails.They attack the plants at night and hide during the day. They areeverywhere.
I tried spraying with Malathion but they still chewed to deatheverything--geraniums, impatiens, periwinkle... What can I do??? PLEASEhelp. Thank you!
    --Wadad Cook; School of Business, AmericanUniversity of Sharjah, U.A.E

A. Thank you Wadad! Youraskingthis question will help reassure our poor mollusk-munched Americanlisteners that snails-and slugs,which are simply snails without the half shell-are a universal problem.Here are 17 methods anyone can use to try and stop either creature fromdevouring precious plants:

1)    Buy 'em a Beer. But not stale beer! Research hasshown that slugs like stale beer about as much as I do. It must befresh-so wait until dusk to fill your slugtraps; otherwise the beer will go stale during the heat of the dayand repel the slugs (and me). A number of commercial beer traps areavailable; and if you decide to go the old margarine tub route, be sureto leave an inch or two of the container above the soil line. (We'lltell you why in #2). In the morning, your containers will be filledwith dead drunken slugs. Use the cheapest-but freshest-beer you canfind, preferably one with a real yeasty smell. Ask your beerdistributor if you can capture the excess when they drain returnedkegs; they generally pour a lot down the drain when those 'three dayweekend' kegs come back.

2)    Be kind to Rove beetles. Those big black beetlesyou often see in the garden don't bother plants, but do eat LOTS ofslugs and their eggs. Always leave an inch of your beer traps above thesoil line so none of these very beneficial insects accidentally fallin.

3)    Let Lightning bugs shine. The larval form of thesegreat entertainers looks nothing like the adult; "glowworms" (theiractual common name) are segmented, wingless, and look like sow bugs orpill bugs, but already have that distinctive built-in flashinglight-and these hungry babies eat lots of slugs and their eggs. Toencourage the adults to breed near your garden, don't use lawnchemicals, turn off outdoor lights at night, and allow a small area ofyour garden to stay moist and a little weedy.

4)    Toads, too! Avoid ALL pesticides, provide waterlow to the ground and a damp shady spot for them to hide during theheat of the day, and these wonderful nocturnal predators will eat lotsof slugs for you.

5)    And Ducks! These feathered friends are perhaps thebest slug-eaters of all! And, all together now: "We can always use theeggs". Thank you.

6)    Protect your crops with Copper. Slugs get anelectric shock when they touch the shiny metal. You can buy ready-madecopper plant guards or just adorn your raised bed frames with copperflashing and hot-glue rings of pennies around the tops of containers.Drop captured slugs into a jar of pennies and watch 'em spark!

7)    Dust 'em with Diatomaceous earth. Available atgarden centers, 'DE' is the mined fossilized remains of dinosaur-era,sea-going creatures called diatoms. Looks like flour to us, but isincredibly sharp on a microscopic level, and dehydrates slugs oncontact. (But it doesn't work when wet.)

8)    Irk them with Iron phosphate. Old chemical-basedslug poisons like the malathion Wadad mentions are nasty, nasty toxicand cause a lot of collateral damage to birds, toads, pets and people.But this new generation 'molluskicide' uses regular old iron as itsactive ingredient. The iron is combined with a slug-attracting bait tomake products with brand names like "Sluggo" and "Escar-Go!".Safe for wildlife; death to slugs. And the little bit of left over ironis actually good for your garden!

9)    Betray them with Boards. Lay some old planksbetween your garden beds. The vampiric slugs will crawl underneath themto hide from the sun. Come morning, lift the boards and scrape theslugs into a bucket with a flat piece of metal. Then do what you will.Got any pennies?

10)    Catch them with Citrus. Leave a bunch of lemon,orange and grapefruit rinds out overnight near slug prone plants andthen collect them-covered with slugs-first thing in the morning. How'sthem pennies holding up?

11)    Harass them with Human hair. Stop in at thebarbershop or beauty parlor, ask for that day's clippings, thensurround your plants with a protective barrier of thin layers of hair.The slugs will get all tangled up in the hair and slowly strangle.(Hey-it was them or the hostas!) And the hair adds plant-feedingnitrogen to the soil as it slowly decomposes.

12)    Spear Some. Get a flashlight and a longShish-ka-bob poker and go to town one nice evening-you deserve a littlenighttime fun with a sharp stick. Leave impaled slugs behind as awarning to survivors.

13)    Salt your slugs. No, it's not good to use toooften, but it's OK to get a little bit of salt in the garden every oncein a while--and very emotionally satisfying. You don't need to coverthe poor things; find a container that releases just a crystal or twoat a time. You only need to sprinkle one little grain on each slug andits orange goo by morning, baby!

14)     Or season them with Vinegar. A spray bottlefilled with plain white vinegar is a great cure for slugs that aren'ton plants. An extremely effective mollusk dissolver, vinegar is also anherbicide-so don't spritz the salvia.

15)    Or Garlic. New research has shown that garlickills slugs. A British garden supply company sells garlic granules forthis purpose, but I'd simply soak the garden down after dark with oneof those new garlic sprays sold for mosquito control, like Victor's"Mosquito Barrier". It should kill lots of slugs, and keep skeetersaway for a good two weeks. It might even repel larger pests, likerabbits and deer!

16)    Make them a cuppa Coffee. Even newer researchfound a coffee-based caffeine spray to be very effective at dispatchingslugs. If I've got my percentages correct, you'd simply need to brew upa strong batch of Joe, let it cool, and then spray it, undiluted, onthe garden at nighttime
17)     Practice your Long Toss. Put on a pitcher's cap,go out to the garden and hurl the nasty slimeballs into the road whileyou listen to your favorite Major League team blow a lead. Clean upwith Brillo.

And, coming soon (we hope!):
Douglas in Lawrenceville, NJ and Marc from Milwaukee both emailed merecently about  "Nemaslug", a British company's brand-name for aspecies of beneficial nematode that attacks slugs. I checked it out andits true. This very special beneficial creature is, like all nematodes,so microscopic that their kitchen-sponge sized container holds millionsof them. But UNlike other nematodes, they survive above ground as wellas below, and prey on slugs and their eggs!
    The bad news is that these wonderful widdle wormiesare not yet available here in the US. Craig Harmer, product manager forGardens Alive!-who sell a number of other  nematodespecies-explains that the hold-up involves the British creature notbeing native to the colonies. Craig says that people are working ongetting it approved, and a professor at Ohio State University namedParwinder Grewel who does a lot of work with nematodes is actuallyoffering a reward to anyone who can find a specimen of this nematodealready existing in the United States. If he's successful, says Craig,they'll be allowed to import these wonderful slug slayers!
    And it might be easier to find one than you think.It turns out that slugs who have been attacked by this nematode developa kind of saddle-like structure on their backs. Find a slug with thatdistinctive physical marker, and you'll likely have found the nematodeas well. We'll post a link to a photo of a slug with a nematode-inducedsaddle so you know just what to look for.
    And hurry up-I want to turn these critters loose inmy garden!    

Photo at Nemaslug site:

You Bet Your Garden   ©2004 Mike McGrath

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Natures Secret Slug Control
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Place traps among your Hostas and Lettuce to eliminate Slugs. Each trapwill cover a 10 square foot area and come with  one month supplyof Bait!

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