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Tuesdays in the Living Section
of your Portland Tribune

 
   
  Act now and beat the slug rush

Act now and beat the slug rush 

Slugs: can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.- Wait! What am I saying?- That's just the point! We desperately want to live without them. But how? 

Portland's Claudia Groth -- I call her the slug lady -- is the most slug-savvy person I've ever met. Groth is the product information manager for Whitney Farms natural garden products, and she's spent years studying the biology of these moving muscles (yes, slugs are all muscle). 

Groth has studied slugs to find out how to get rid of them. And now is the time. Why? Because they're mating. 

"For every one slug you stop now in the fall, you're saving yourself from trying to kill up to 500 new babies in the spring," Groth reminds us. Each slug can lay hundreds of eggs, so you can see how acting now beats the odds. 

When it comes to outsleuthing slugs, the question always becomes how. Here's the Reader's Digest version straight from the slug lady's mouth: Put the slug bait where the slugs hide during the day. 

How do we know that, you ask? Easy. 

Slugs like it cool and moist. So use your favorite kind of slug killer around ivy, ground covers and rocks, and not around your favorite plants. I know that runs counter to what you've been told, but if you understand slug biology, you can understand why it works. 

Groth says: "When it's dark, they come out hungry. They've waited eight hours for a meal. They smell the bait; they eat it first. Slugs are couch potatoes. They don't like to walk too far." 

All the slug baits on the market have about the same success rate -- if you have pets, use nontoxic granules such as Sluggo, made with iron phosphate -- and all are made to lure slugs. If you put the bait around the plants, you'll attract the slugs to the very leaves you're trying to protect. 

Now get this: Slugs are smart. The gastropods can actually remember where they found something that tasted good. 

"They remember the smell of their favorite food and where to find it," Groth says. So they'll go back for those tender shoots of hosta or delphinium until the plants are stripped clean. Can you believe it? Slugs can remember for about two weeks! 

Groth's research also shows slugs can "see" about 6 feet, and they can "smell" about 3 feet. And that's how they outsmart us. If you put out fresh poison every night, the slugs will avoid it. The slug remembers (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Ick, I ate that last night and I'm still hung over." They'll make a fairly fast exit in the opposite direction.

This brings us to another fun fact from Groth: "Slugs can do the 100-yard dash in 2 1/2 hours. A human can do it in 10 seconds." 

Anyway, Groth says the answer to slugs is simple and saves money: "Don't bait every day. Bait in different locations or bait every 10 days, near dark hiding places." That way, the slug has forgotten your assassination attempts. 

So the time is right, and we've got our marching orders. Now, if we could just remember where we put that bottle of slug bait.

 
 
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