I’ve seen slug trails on my patio this past week but so far no plant damage. Slugs are related to snails but have no shell, so they aren’t as cute in pictures. They are active above ground, mostly at night during cool, wet weather. When the sun is out slugs hide in cracks and crevices, under plants or in the soil to protect themselves from dehydration and predators.
Slugs are easy to detect because they leave a silvery slime trail. The damage they cause can be to roots, stem or leaves. Damage to foliage is sometimes at the edges of the leaf but usually is seen as irregular holes between the veins. Damage on the roots or the stem is seen as a smooth sided pit.
Discouraging information about slugs;. They’re hermaphrodites, meaning that every single slug is capable of laying eggs. Clusters of about 12 white or translucent eggs are laid on or near the soil. The eggs will hatch in 2 weeks to a month when conditions are ideal. The most common time for slugs to lay eggs is early fall. Eggs laid in October or November can overwinter and may hatch as early as January or February if there is a warm spell. The common gray garden slug will lay additional clutches of eggs in early spring. Unless we get to them first, slugs live about a year.
Slugs are difficult to control with insecticides. Baits are the most effective control method. Some baits are extremely toxic to kids, pets and birds. If the bait isn’t pet friendly, place it under a board or some other type of cover where slugs can get to the bait but nothing else can. Even better, look for the pet friendly variety of slug bait at D&B.
Some natural ways to try repelling slugs include;
- o Ring your plants with crushed eggshells. The sharp shells cut their slimy little bodies so they avoid crossing. Likewise, but more attractive, are the prickly seedpods from a sweet gum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua).
- Cut a grapefruit ,lemon or orange in half, clean out the pulp and place it upside-down where you’ve seen evidence of slugs. They feed on the pith and stay inside. Replace the peel with a new one every few days.
- Supposedly slugs will not cross a copper strip.
- Chickens? They love slugs.
- A ring of sand around your plants might help. Slugs don’t like the sharp surface.
- And last but not least is the famous beer trap. Set up your local slug tavern by putting beer in a shallow container. Set it so the lip is at ground level. Slugs are party animals (er, I mean mollusks) and will come for the fun and then not be able to leave. Dump the disgusting mix every day or so and refill.
If you’ve been bothered by slugs in the past, hopefully one of these remedies will be just the solution you need.