Slugs

June 6, 2010 at 4:52 pm Leave a comment

Garden pests can come in all different shapes and sizes, but none are more repulsive in appearance than slugs.  Slugs are molluscs and are related to oysters and clams.  A slug lacks a shell, and travels around on a mucous or slime-covered trail.  The mucous trail can be seen in your garden as shiny trail over leaves and soil.  They damage plants by feeding on the plant surface or making holes in the leaves.  Host plants for slugs appear to be vegetable and herb species but that is not to say they won’t feed on other plants.  Slugs often go undetected because they tend to feed at night or on overcast days.  A moist environment is important to their survival and you are less likely to find them out where they are exposed to full sun.  They can range in size from 0.5 to 20 cm and can have various colours (i.e dark brown, black, or light grey).

What is their life cycle?  Slugs have both male and female reproductive organs thus they are classified as hermaphrodites.  They emerge from under shrubs and other winter shelters in April and lay up to 300 eggs in soil, debris, or under rocks and plants.  When a slug is as young as three months, it will start laying eggs.  It is important to note that eggs will not hatch unless contact is made with moisture.

How do you control slugs?   Changing the slug’s environment is good way of preventing the pests from coming into your gardens.  This can be as simple as removing all material that can serve as daytime shelters (i.e. plant debris, rocks, logs, and boards).  Dense growing plants should be thinned to increase the soil’s exposure to sunlight something slugs don’t like.  Creating a barrier between garden rows using an abrasive material such as gravel or diatomaceous earth will help prevent slug infestations.  Slugs need to produce more mucous to travel over this material, and as a result are more likely to avoid it.  Handpicking slugs from plants is another method of control, and can be very effective.  Please note that handpicking should be performed at least two hours after sunset when slugs are more active (Requires the use of a flashlight).  Picked slugs should be placed in a pail of soapy water or rubbing alcohol to drown them.  There are numerous other methods of control available so please check out the references below for more information.

References

Health Canada  “ Effective control of slugs and snails” http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pubs/pest/_pnotes/slugs-limaces/index-eng.php Accessed on June 1, 2010

McGill University “Coping with slugs and snails” Ecological Agriculture Projects

http://eap.mcgill.ca/MagRack/JPR/JPR_29.htm Accessed on June 1, 2010

University of Guelph’s Pest Diagnostic Clinic “ Slugs and snails” http://www.uoguelph.ca/pdc/Factsheets/Other/SlugsSnails.htm Accessed on June 1, 2010

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