Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

How to Stop Slugs in Their Tracks

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

How to Stop Slugs in Their Tracks

Article excerpt

A long brownish-orange slug slowly slides across a cabbage leaf, pausing occasionally to feed on the tender foliage in my garden. Usually they attack under a shroud of darkness, causing gardeners to wonder what's causing the holes in their plants' foliage.

"During the day, they are underneath debris or mulch. Then at night they come out and feed," says Matthew Quenaudon, integrated pest management specialist at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

"A slime trail is also a good indicator."

This is the third wet summer in a row and has the potential to be the worst we've seen for slugs in as many years.

The conservatory doesn't have a serious slug problem since most of its rooms are changed out regularly for seasonal flower shows. That doesn't give the slug population a chance to grow. When the pests do attack, Mr. Quenaudon reaches for an organic bait called Sluggo whose active ingredient is iron phosphate,

"That's safe for people and pets," he says.

Once slugs have ingested the bait, they stop feeding almost immediately and die within several days.

Mr. Quenaudon discourages gardeners from reaching for chemical slug pellets. "You might be hurting other things in soil, including toads and frogs."

There are lots of predators that eat slugs and chemicals can negatively affect them, too. Slugs are a food source for everything from ground beetles to small mammals.

Mr. Quenaudon's best tip to keep slug damage to a minimum is to keep the garden free of debris and weeds, two things slugs love. Cultivating under and around the plants will also help, he says.

Slugs are soft-bodied snails without a shell. Mr. Quenaudon has some fun facts about the slimy garden raiders.

"They have two sets of antennae. One set is for seeing the other is for smelling." If one of the antennae is lost, it can regenerate. …

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