Slugs and snails
Slugs and beer traps:
Everyone knows slugs like beer! Even I knew that … but what I wanted to know and couldn’t find out was:
Q. What sort of beer do slugs like (are they beer gourmets … or lager louts in the making)?
A. Well … having tried in the past to tempt these nasty little beasties with cheap lager (out of date and 10p per can from the local ‘offie’), I can categorically tell you – slugs don’t like lager! It seems if you really want them to drown your sorrows, you’ll need to persuade them in with a drop of Bitter. I haven’t yet discovered if there’s a favoured brand … but if you can recommend one, we’ll gladly list it here!
Q. What happens when it rains?
A. What happens is the beer gets diluted and like any watered-down alcohol, loses its appeal. You can now buy slug traps with neat little umbrella tops though. Check out the ‘other slug traps’ section below for a DIY idea!
Q. How often do you change the beer?
A. We reckoned on every couple of days, but I guess it depends how many slugs you’ve attracted. It doesn’t take long before it starts to pong and the whole things becomes quite revolting!
Slugs and Nematodes
I think nematodes are a great idea. Nematodes are micro-organisms which kill slugs without harming anything else. They are brilliant for an organic garden or plot. At about £20 per treatment – and you treat normally 3 t imes during the growing season, they don’t come cheap. But they are effective. However … a word of warning: if you don’t have an easily accessible water supply – forget the nematodes!
Our idea last year was to treat the entire allotment in the spring just before planting our young tender seedlings. I worked on the principle that, when it needed doing again 6 weeks later, the plants should be big enough to cope with the odd nibble. However, our allotment is such a long, long way from the tap it makes using a hose impossible, and we hadn’t harvested enough water in our tank.
The nematodes process goes something like this:
1. Water the ground
2. Mix the nematodes in water and water the ground with the mixture
3. Water the ground again (now you know why you need water!)
4. Keep the ground moist for the next 2 weeks
Had we realised so much water was going to be needed, I doubt we would have gone down the nematodes route. After 2 weeks of lugging buckets of water around, we gave up on that idea.
We don’t have a big slug or snail problem on the allotment, probably because less than a mile away they flock to our garden in droves. So the majority of our slug experiments have taken place on our doorstep. We tried organic slug pellets, but with very poor results. So sadly using traditional slug pellets is the only really effective method we’ve found.
However, never liking to be beaten and having concerns about the other wildlife, David did some extensive slug research (if anyone needs a copywriter with an extensive knowledge of slugs and snails, he’s your man!). According to his findings, slugs are repelled by large numbers of slug pellets. This means you can’t catch or kill the little perishers. So less is more when it comes to pellets. Just a small sprinkle is far more effective than heaps of the things.
Now this is where it gets interesting! If the slugs have eaten the pellets and ‘died’, a spell of wet weather will bring them back to life. The pellets dehydrate the slugs so if they are left lying around and it rains, you’re back to square one. We’ve found the best way of overcoming this is to do an early morning patrol to collect all the corpses and remove them before they can be eaten by other creatures … or of course it rains. Dropping them into a tub of boiling water puts paid to them for good!
Picking up slugs (Yuk!)
If you’ve ever tried picking up slugs, even wearing gloves, then you’re braver than I am! We’ve flirted with a few slug ‘picker-uppers’ with little success. The long handled tong things with a torch on the pole was much too big for the small ones and was generally too cumbersome. David occasionally spears them with a wooden BBQ skewer, but that’s not for the squeamish!
The best ‘picker-upper’ for slugs and snails we’ve come across is the humble clothes peg. Small, easy to handle and in ample supply in most households, clothes pegs do the business perfectly. You need to use the top end of the peg – not the end you use to attach washing to the line. These squeeze together easily and using them like a pair of tongs, you can pick up the offender and dispose of however way you please. The only thing to remember is to keep a couple of dedicated pegs for this purpose. They do get a bit gungy after a while … and you’d be less than popular if you return them to the peg bag!
Copper tape and slugs
We’ve had some success with copper tape barriers. Cut a ring from a plastic pop bottle and simply stick the tape to that. My daughter tried this with pots in her patio garden, only to watch in amazement as a snail (quite a big one) threw itself over it like an Olympic athlete. Back to the drawing board … we have been told a double band of copper tape is better, but when you need huge numbers of copper ringos, that does become expensive!
Other slug traps
Slugs are cannibals … there’s nothing they like better than to feast on their dead friends. We’ve found simply splatting a snail or slug and leaving it somewhere accessible is one of the most potent baits available. Using the clothes peg, you can simply go round and help yourself. Amazingly, this even works if you’ve used salt to kill the original slug or snail. Perhaps they like their dinner highly seasoned!
Plastic milk bottles make useful slug traps. Simply take a plastic 1 pint milk bottle (any brand will do!) and cut an inverted V in each side near the bottom. Press the flap in so the slugs can get through. Put your bait (beer, slug pellets, etc) in the bottle and put the lid on. Simply position in the beds and allow the slugs to investigate. Once they’re in, they can’t get back out. I’m told the Soil Association approve of slug pellets used this way, but this hasn’t been confirmed!