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GARDENING : Even Sluggish Army, Lured by Debris, Can Invade and Do Damage

August 14, 1993|From Associated Press

Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Slugs are kind of like the tortoise: They may not move very fast, but almost before you know it, they can attack your garden, munching holes in leaves and later ravaging fruit and vegetable plants.

"They chew irregularly shaped holes in the leaves of garden plants," says Jeffrey Hahn, an entomology specialist. "They can attack strawberries, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables."

Slugs are relatives of oysters and clams, and they need moist conditions to survive. "They resemble snails, except that they lack shells," Hahn says.

They are often found under mulch, stones, boards and other objects. They feed at night and also during cloudy days.

Good sanitation is the key to controlling slugs. "Pick up old mulches, boards and other debris from the garden," Hahn says. "This minimizes the number of potential hiding places for slugs."

Methods of controlling slugs include:

* Burying pans or wide-mouthed containers so the top is even with the soil surface and then filling the containers with beer. "Because the slugs are attracted to fermenting smells, they are lured to the containers, fall in and drown," Hahn says. A teaspoon of yeast mixed with 3 ounces of spring water has also been reported to attract slugs effectively.

* Placing boards or damp newspapers around the garden as traps. Slugs are drawn to these items and will hide under them. Check the traps in the morning and remove the slugs.

* Using chemical baits has varying levels of success, Hahn says. Some baits are effective when the temperature is below 70 degrees and the weather is damp (ideal for slugs), but they can't be used around food plants. Other types can be used around food plants, but aren't very effective under cool, wet conditions.

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