I have a secret.
I have a fondness for slugs and snails. I think they’re, well, kind of cute. I know I’m not alone in this! Well, maybe among gardeners.
But except for that unfortunate time when I stepped on a slug and it got stuck between my toes… oh, and the time the dog tried to eat the giant banana slug but it glued itself to her tongue and she kept sticking her tongue in and out in a vain attempt to detach the slug… well, my experiences have been mainly uneventful. This despite growing up basically in a rainforest inhabited by thousands of the critters. However, I was surrounded by slug genocide.
My surrogate grandmother, Mrs. Mills, who lived next door to us when I was wee, was an amazing gardener with over an acre of heavenly English cottage-style garden. She was ruthless with the slugs. She carried a pair of scissors with her in the garden, and whenever she came across one, the unfortunate gastropod was snipped neatly in half.
My mother’s method was no less gruesome. It was however, slightly less conspicuous. She carried a giant pair of wooden tongs with her, which were used to deposit the limaceous creature into a grey jug of salt water marked GROSS SLUGS.
Maybe it’s a remnent of teen rebellion, but I refuse to kill slugs. Unfortunately, faced with the lace they make out of my hostas, Something Must Be Done. The slugs must be stopped.
I realize there are a number of organic ways to deal with slugs, setting a beer trap being one of the least offensive. (If your time is up, drowning in beer wouldn’t be such a bad way to go, relatively speaking.) While I’m on the subject, please, please don’t use slug bait (i.e. poison). Domestic animals are attracted to it, ingest it, and die needlessly. We almost lost Blue, my first dog, to slug bait. Not to mention the fact that it works its way up the food chain (slugs are eaten by frogs, snakes and birds, to name a few).
But you don’t really need to kill slugs at all. Here are a few tips for reducing their presence without feeling the guilt:
* Use copper as a barrier. Copper gives slugs a slight shock when they try to cross it. You can buy copper tape and make miniature fences around slug-munched plants, or simply use old pennies!
* Water in the morning rather than the evening. Slugs are most active in damp nighttime conditions, so changing your watering habits can reduce slug damage by 80%.
* Slugs find coarse surfaces such as crushed eggshells, lava rocks, sharp gravel, and other rough irritating.
* In the I Wish category, get yourself a duck.
Wikipedia has a few more suggestions .
Fascinating Slug Facts
Slug genitalia are also some of the most prodigious in the world. Ariolimax dolichophallus, a species of banana slug (from Greek dolicho-, long and Latin phallus, penis) has the largest penis-to-body length ratio of any animal. The record-holding specimen had a body length of 6 inches, with a phallus length of 32.5 inches, well over five times the body length.
A commonly seen practice among many slugs is apophallation, when one or both of the slugs chew off the other’s penis. The penis of these species is curled like a cork-screw and often becomes entangled in their mate’s genitalia in the process of exchanging sperm. Apophallation allows the slugs to separate themselves. Once the penis has been removed, the slug remains female for the rest of its life.