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Slugs

A slug is considered a garden pest and a curiosity to many.  This article will give basic slug information and description, the life cycle of slugs, different methods of slug control in gardens and around homes.  Slugs are more than just a snail without a shell, as will be explained in this article.  Find basic information, biology and reproduction of slugs and control in gardens.  Slug control measures include structural, non chemical and chemical means.

Slug Information    Slug Control    Pest Control Products for Slugs

Slugs: Phylum: Mollusca  Class: Gastropoda 

Slug Information

Slugs and Snails    Life Cycle and Habits

Basic Differences Between Slugs and Snails

A slug is often described as "a snail without a shell," although slugs do have a hidden shell that is located under the mantle of its body.  While snails can live in live in more exposed or slightly harsher environment with the help of their body armor, slugs do not have the advantage of the protective, visible shell.  Slugs have an advantage in that they can live in soils that are not rich in calcium, a material that aids in the formation of a snail's shell.  The down side of life without a shell is that the slug has to risk its naked body to the danger of drying out.  To avoid this problem it spends more time underground, which can mean more problems for the garden with root crops, buried seeds and seedlings being destroyed by the pest.

Life Cycle of Slugs and Their Habits

Slugs prefer moist environments, they feed at night and hide during the day to avoid predators and to protect themselves from the sun.  They hide in soil crevices, holes, under leaves, boards and debris.  After maturity (which can take 1 to 2 years) slugs have both male and female organs.  Cross-fertilization is the most common method of reproduction but if extreme conditions exist, slugs can fertilize themselves for 
survival.  They can lay eggs up to 6xs a year and most commonly lay clusters of 3-80 eggs at one time.  Their eggs are ¼ in diameter and are most commonly round or oval shaped and are white or transparent in color.  Slug eggs are laid under wood or debris or in crevices or holes in the ground.  The eggs usually hatch in a few weeks but can lay dormant until sufficient moisture is available. 

Slugs are usually light gray or black.  They feed on leaves, stems, flowers and fruits close to the ground such as strawberries, tomatoes, artichokes.  Damage to plants is usually seen as irregular holes with smooth edges or a scar on the leaf surface.  Small seedlings in the garden can be especially inviting to these creatures. 

Slugs are basically one large foot which excretes mucus or slime by which the slug travels.  The mucus can also be used for reproduction, moisture control, navigation, self defense and mating.  This mucus is produced by various glands located on the body, including the pedal gland.  Slugs have two tentacles on the top of their head. The eyes are located on the end of the larger tentacle and the smell organ on the smaller tentacles.  Slugs consume several times their own body weight each day. They are equipped with a guillotine-like jaw and mouth equipped with a radula (Latin: a scrapper) which is a ribbon affixed with thousands of backward-pointing replaceable teeth.  Their teeth can also be used in combat with other slugs.

Slug Control             Slug Control Products 

Slugs favor wet, cool environments.  Keeping an area free of plant debris boards, stones and using bait like Sluggo is an efficient form of defense.  Most slugs return to the same “nesting” site each evening unless the conditions become less favorable.  This knowledge can be used in eliminating a slug problem and as a trapping tool.  Pouring salt on slugs is not exactly the best control measure; salt should not be added to soil where plants are cultivated.  If you have time to pour salt on each and every slug, you also have time to simply hand pick each slug you see and dispose of it properly.
The common sense approach to slug control is to first eliminate items lying on the ground that encourage their presence, as mentioned above.  When snails or slugs are too numerous to control by individual hand picking, the use of traps or baits is required.  As will be discussed next, you will need an attractant for your trap; this is not to be confused with baits that specifically target and kill slugs and snails.

Many people find that cultural practices alone cannot stop slug damage to their flowers or edible plant crops.  When extra help is needed there are options for controlling this garden pest, including homemade and store bought solutions.  It has long been known that slugs and snails (of the varieties that infest our gardens and landscapes) will drown in containers of liquid in which they can enter but cannot escape.  Room temperature beer is a favorite product for homemade slug and snail traps.  Beer not only serves as the liquid in which the pests drown but also serves as an attractant.  Simply, this means that slugs cannot resist the smell of beer so they crawl into your trap and drown.  Setting out containers (jar lids, clay saucers, etc.) can be time consuming and sometimes creates an eyesore for a garden.  An open container of beer must be set in a manner that makes it easy for slugs to access but difficult or impossible for them to escape, therefore they drown.  Shallow containers of beer work well but must be refilled every evening.  [Slugs and snails are nocturnal; traps and baits set out in the cool of the evening work best and can work throughout the night but must be refilled the following day.]

Pest Control Products for Slugs 

List of Slug Control Products

Not only do open containers need constant refilling, they are an open invitation for your pets or other small animals to consume alcohol.  A device that many people use for slug control is the Scent-Ry bait/ repellent station.  [This station was designed to hold Fox Urine Powder or Coyote Urine powder and used to repel small animals out of gardens.  Predator smells can often scare away damaging wildlife.]
When using the Scent-Ry for slug control, it is best to push the device into the mulch or soil so that it is low enough for slugs to enter.  Fill the containers with either beer or a slug bait.  Not only will these containers keep liquids such as beer from evaporating too fast, they also blend in with vegetation which makes your garden more attractive than using empty cat food cans, mayonnaise jar lids, etc.  
The Scent-Ry is also used as a container for killing slugs with a bait.  Slug baits kept in a Scent-Ry are less likely to come into contact with pets or wildlife.

Traditional slug baits contain an active ingredient that is highly toxic to mammals.  An example of this type of bait is Deadline Liquid Slug and Snail Bait.  A new slug bait is now available that kills slugs and snails but is not hazardous for animals.  Sluggo Slug and Snail Bait does not contain toxic chemicals and can be used safely in gardens, flower beds, flower pots and can also be placed in a Scent-Ry as a means of prolonging the life of the bait.


List of Slug Control Products

Sluggo Slug and Snail Bait - Pet and wildlife safe, yet very effective against slugs and snails.  Can be used alone or in a protective station.  Gardeners have had great success by first broadcasting Sluggo in flower beds and gardens and then placing Sluggo in a couple of Scent-Ry stations.  Broadcasting the bait gives better coverage; bait placed in Scent-Ry stations are protected from the elements.
Sluggo 

Deadline Liquid Bait - This is a traditional bait that can be applied in small spots where slugs or snails are active.  Keep out of reach of children pets and wildlife!  If you need to control slugs or snails but have concerns about safety, use Sluggo.

Scent-Ry - Stations that can be used to hold baits for slugs, snails, ants, roaches or can be used to hold Coyote Urine Powder or Fox Urine Powder predator smell products.  This handy device can be placed on surfaces, held in place with ground stake (supplied with stations) or suspended in trees, shrubs and even in attics.

Slug Information    Slug Control    Pest Control Products for Slugs

Our thanks to Christina Powell Helmig for her research and information that made this slug information and slug control page possible!

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