Thursday 18 January 2018

Boozy end awaits thirsty slugs

Black Slug.
Black Slug.

Joe Kennedy

THERE are snails a-plenty but no thrushes to eat them. The weather is paradise for slimy things which crawl in the night. Proud gardeners are getting frantic as slugs glory in the dampness and many methods to curb them are tried, apart from tramping about in the night with a flashlight and bucket.

They are sometimes there to greet you in the mornings. I tread warily negotiating old steps and push aside with my boot a great grey slug (Limax maximus) which is big enough to be the calling card of a fox.

But this fellow is harmless enough, preferring rotting vegetation, unlike the common garden (Arion hortensis) or Budapest (Milax budapestensis) which will destroy herbaceous plants and root crops.

These fellows and their various relatives – there are about 30 species, with some new ones arriving on potted plants from abroad – have four noses and tentacles that can detect food from more than two metres away on any night of foraging over an area of up to 45 square metres.

sl.jpg
Black Slug.

Their thousands of teeth can make short work of anything they fancy for which protective actions have not been taken. Afterwards they find their way home by a scent trail which they have laid down. Bonanza time for the night-shift slime balls!

Gardeners worry and experiment with various methods to curb the pests. Many will not use chemical deterrents which can harm birds and other wildlife. They employ traditional barriers such as gravel and ash.

How about drink? Slugs fancy a night on the town without realising the consequences.

Bury a plastic cup of stale lager in the ground leaving about an inch rim to stop useful beetles and spiders from falling in. The slugs' exceptional sense of smell will send them to a boozy end.

As well as gravel and ash, coffee grounds is a useful bar-

rier (the caffeine is deadly), as are grapefruit skins, water-filled moats, copper-covered garden tape, parasitic eelworms and nematode worms whose bacteria will kill them.

There is also a useful wildlife-friendly pellet based on iron phosphate containing Ferramol (www.organiccatelog.com) which kills only slugs and snails.

Of course poultry keepers can boast of releasing their birds in the evening for a slug feast. Ducks are especially useful, sucking up the pests while not plundering the vegetable beds. Go borrow a duck!

There is one unique slitherer, however, which is garden-friendly. This is the Kerry slug (Geomalacus maculosus), a Lusitanian of the south, which does not attack lettuces and is quite happy with mosses and liverworts.

But I suppose we should be grateful we do not have any Africans such as achatina fulica which is as big as a banana, with an appetite to match!

Note: There was a spelling blooper last week of the university discipline of the late Dr Frank Mitchell, who was Professor of Quaternary Studies at Trinity College. Too many consonants! Mea culpa.

Sunday Independent

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