Slugs are common pests in the garden. They belong to the mollusk group and they are classified as gastropods. They slide on one muscular foot and leave a mucus trail behind as they go. Slugs are different from snails because they lack the hard, protective shell.
They have two tentacles on their front with eyes on the tips for sight and smell. There are two lower tentacles that are used for touch and taste. They slide over plants as they feed.
Where Do Slugs Live?
Slugs need moisture and they thrive in warm, humid climates. Places such as the coastal areas on the east and west coasts of the United States provide the right conditions for these creatures to thrive. Slugs’ primary need is moisture so as long as an environment is moist and warm, they can survive there.
Gardens and lawns in these warm environments draw slugs because they usually have plenty of moisture and provide shade from the sun and wind. They also have plenty of young leaves and shoots, which is the ideal food for slugs. They survive well in this environment.
In the hot months of the summer, slugs need shelter so that they do not dry out from the sun. They seek cool damp places to stay during the day and they come out to feed at night.
They hide under objects on the ground or leaf debris. Minimizing these items will help to minimize the slug population on your property.
Do Slugs Harm Plants?
Slugs eat plant material that is living or in stages of decomposition. They will consume the young plants first, especially those in a vegetable garden such as lettuce, basil, and other foliage plants. They slide along the plant and leave large holes behind.
They will also feed on fruits, including strawberries and tomatoes, and as they look for moisture under the soil, they will eat roots of newly planted bulbs or seeds. Their mouths have rows of tiny teeth that they use to shred the leaf tissue so that they can digest it.
It can be difficult to catch these creatures in action because they come out at night. You will discover them by noticing the damage they leave behind and their trails of mucus.
They can devastate a plant because they eat more than their weight in food every night and they can travel distances up to forty feet while they are feeding.
What Are Slugs?
Slugs are relatives of snails and octopi and they are classified as mollusks. They have both male and female parts but they do mate.
They lay eggs that are either round or oval and can be clear, white, or golden in color. They lay the eggs in the moist ground or under old boards in the yard. The eggs hatch after a few weeks.
Slugs use mucus for travel, moisture control, locating their trails, mating, and self-defense. They have glands that secrete the mucus in varying consistencies depending on the purpose of the mucus.
Although slugs are very similar to snails, the lack of a hard exterior shell causes them to spend more time underground. They can damage many parts of garden plants because they eat more than twice their body weight on a daily basis.
How to Control Slugs
Because slugs can create such widespread damage to a garden, they often need to be controlled. This can be a difficult task because slugs hide during the day and feed at night, which means that they aren’t often spotted right away. Their damage can be accidentally attributed to other pests.
Once a slug problem is discovered, it can be difficult to control because it isn’t practical to hunt them at night. They are slimy, which means that many people don’t want to pick them off the plants and dispose of them.
It is important to know how slug damage looks so that it can be identified. They leave perfectly round holes in fruits such as strawberries or tomatoes and jagged holes in leaves. The biggest identifier of slugs is the mucus trail they leave behind.
There are different tricks to controlling a slug population and it starts with taking steps to prevent them from moving in. There are very few chemical control solutions for slugs, although a few do exist. It is better to engage in the following practices.
There are steps that will make the garden less appealing to slugs. For example, it is best to avoid using loose mulches such as straw, hay, and shredded wood. These mulches provide exactly the right environment for slugs to stay cool and moist during the day. A better choice is compost of leaf mold.
Another tactic is to make sure that you water in the morning. This way, the garden will dry by the night, which is when they come out. In addition, using drip irrigation waters the root of the plant and keeps the plant itself dry, which will discourage slugs.
You can also encourage natural predators of slugs to live in your garden. Some natural predators include birds, snakes, lizards, frogs, and toads. You should avoid using pesticides on the grass because it targets insects that can help control slugs.
You can also use the slugs’ instincts against them and trap them using boards. They hide during the day so place wood boards near your garden.
The slugs will go under the board for shelter when daylight comes and you can flip over the board and find them all there. You can then get rid of them without having to search for them.
Another method is to use wool. Slugs do not like to climb over it; you can actually buy pellets of natural wool and lay them in the yard. Copper is another great deterrent because copper reacts with the slug slime to cause a shock.
You can also buy a small electric slug fence that runs on a nine-volt battery and it will zap them when they try to cross it.
Slugs are interesting creatures but they can wreak havoc on your garden. They are particularly difficult to find because it is rare that you see them in action.
They hide during the day under materials in the yard or down in the soil and they eat more than twice their body weight overnight. You would need to walk around with a flashlight to see them in action.
If you learn how to spot slug damage, you can control it sooner. Their damage is often mistaken for other pests and using insecticides is not effective against them. They can do so much damage that they need to be controlled before they destroy your entire garden.
Slugs live in moist, humid environments so the most effective preventative technique that you can use is to reduce moisture. You can try to water your garden early in the morning so that it is dry at night and use the drip watering method to send water directly to the roots of the plants, which will help to keep the rest of the plant dry.
Slugs leave behind a slimy trail of mucus and this makes them easier to find. If you don’t want to hunt down slugs with a flashlight at night, you should try an alternative method for removing them from your garden.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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