Garden slugs and snails are only two of the many pests in our gardens.Pesky things drive us crazy, whether they are in our daily work and family lives or even in the garden. As I have written recently, the bald lawn was driving me crazy…then the weeds that were co-habiting with them…so much for lifting my spirits! Or at least that is how it seemed to me…that my enthusiasm was damped and muddied by discouragement as well as lousy soil.
The soil in my yard as well as my garden really is poor and lacking in nutrients…so what am I going to do about it you ask? Well I think it is time for me to look at the garden with new eyes of wonder and realize, like any kid does, that there are lots of really cool plants and bugs out there just waiting to be noticed.
Okay, so snails and beetles chewing their way through my lovely garden plant leaves may not be waving so I would take notice, but they certainly are making themselves known by the lacy pattern they have eaten. So not only are the weeds/wildflowers sharing in the undesigned landscape around my house, but now the crawling pests have arrived to picnic on my plants.
Of course I find the slimy garden slugs and snails to be the yuckiest…such a highly scientific term! All I know about them is the slimy trail as well as the holes they leave when done snacking. I do know that cold, damper areas as well as the underside of leaves is where they are commonly found and that I single handily use my trusty trowel of death to fling them on to the road. Of course, for the purpose of providing real information on this slimy garden pests, a little bit of research made me fear them even more.
In most Ontario gardens, the grey garden slug (pictured) Deroceras reticulatum is most common and in the fields have the grey field slug Deroceras laeve. What the difference is I am not certain. While some grub like pests live and eat in the soil, the grey field slug is, as it’s name suggests, are more active above ground than the others. Breeding data states one can produce many juveniles despite having a short life cycle, making it a particularly dangerous pest. Further reading revealed that slugs, which are a mollusk, are hermaphrodites! Yes they are male and female in one body…no wonder they have no trouble finding a mate.
I think that finding out about their sex life was more than I bargained for. To make things even worse, once they mate they can each lay up to 300 eggs that look whitish jelly filled, ‘BB’ sized balls. In less than two weeks they hatch and become a lean, mean, eating machine that produces mucous from a foot, which prevents them from falling down off the plants they are eating. No wonder there is such a lacy pattern on tall plants I thought would normally be beyond their reach. Okay, despite my repulsion, I found reading about their life cycle interesting and have provided two of many links, for you to check out.
Look for Deroceras agresteor
Of course on this slimy topic, I had been following the much cuter mollusk, the banded wood snail, Cepaea nemoralis, is most common species of snail. This one too has the same basic anatomy but carries its house along for protection and can seal the end of the shell when it pulls itself in for protection. Wow that would be handy when predators want to lunch on them!
Speaking of lunch, both grubs and snails are tasty meals for some beetle, birds, garden shakes and mostly eaten by toads. Most wild toads will eat worms, ants slugs, snails,spiders, butterflies, crickets and centipedes, so having one or two around should keep the pest population down. Then the veggies and lettuce you are growing in your garden might make it to a bowl for your lunch.
Certainly most pests, especially thegarden slugs and snail I have mentioned love tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce and other veggies such as beans. Of course not to be left out are the blooms and leaves of petunias, zinnia, lily of the valley just to name a few. I found a snail recently suspended from an the bloom of an anonymous summer bulb, which it was sharing with a ladybug!
As I do not plan on sharing any more plants with snails or slugs, there are a few steps of preventative nature I can take. Removing dead and decaying plant debris, clearing up standing water, prune low tree and shrub branches cuts down on damp shady areas. Then there is having a sharp stabbing tool handy for organic termination, or throwing the snails out on the road for crushing!
Other organic means include shallow trays of stale beer, that must be emptied regularly. crushed egg shells around plants have some measure of success as does diatomaceous earth (crushed sea creatures), both of which give jagged texture which repels anything slimy trying to crawl over them. Newer suggestions include salt and sea weed as a small scale repellent, but the salt from both sources leaches in to the ground.
There are two main chemical repellants which are toxic to birds, cats and dogs as well as children. Of course i do not fall in to any of these groups, but still find anything toxic to them, harmful to the environment and my self. Methaldehyde and methiocarb are used in pellets and on tree tapes, with killing in mind on a larger scale such as in field and fruit tree farming where financial and business production can be dramatically affected . Then the lacey pattern and the often stripped bare stems would be a problem on a scale I cannot even imagine.
From one little garden where there have been about fifty snails and ten slugs found on my afternoon hunt, I have learned a great deal about mollusks There is also a great deal left to learn, should I choose to . One thing I did learn that I kept silent about earlier was that snails do some good in many countries even the ones in our garden, are cooked for food. Of course most of us have heard that in France cooked snails are referred to as escargot and served as a gourmet appetizer
Eating snails has been a culinary custom for thousands of years and is a delicacy in many Asian countries, in African countries and are catching on in th U.K. and other European countries. From article on line, even north Americans and Aussies are eating them. In fact now they are even raised for such purposesand may be the key to nutrition in developing countries.
Snails are supposedly nutritious, being high in protein and low in saturated fat, provided of course they do not have butter added. According to several articles they are also a good source of essential fatty acids, vitamins E, A, B12 and vitamin K, magnesium, iron, and selenium.Snails and slugs can have be infected with a parasite known as A. Cantonensis which can cause a rare form of meningitis called eosinophilic meningitis if ingested. Don’t let this unfortunate experience happen to you. If eating snails appeals to you, at least make sure they’re well cooked.
On that note I think it is best to move back to salad free of pesticides and garden pests alike. As for my gourmet palate, well I think it is safe to say I do not plan on eating any snails in the near future. Whether pest or food product, I hope this blog has been of interest to you and helpful for a greener, lusher garden.