Monday, May 10, 2010

snails and slugs, part 3

Our war against land mollusks started many years before the copper wire/mesh offensive described in snails and slugs, part 2 and the Weetabix offensive described in snails and slugs, part 1. Since we don't believe in using poisonous substances, hand-to-hand (actually foot-to-foot) combat has been our main strategy, with a brief incursion into snail husbandry.*

With neither copper nor Weetabix having proved to be a practical solution, I turned once more to Google and got into some real science. The Statewide Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program at UC Davis, (where else?), has posted an up-to-date and comprehensive article titled simply Snails and Slugs (revised in November 2009). I must quote one paragraph: "Iron phosphate baits—available under many trade names including Sluggo and Escar-Go—have the advantage of being safe for use around children, domestic animals, birds, fish, and other wildlife, making them a good choice for an integrated pest management program in your garden. Ingesting even small amounts of the bait will cause snails and slugs to stop feeding, although it can take several days for the snails to die. You can scatter the bait on lawns or on the soil around any vegetable, ornamental, or fruit tree that needs protection. Iron phosphate baits can be more effective against snails than slugs overall and more effective than metaldehyde during periods of higher humidity. Snails and slugs tend to hide before they die, so you won’t see scattered empty shells or dead snails and slugs as you would if treating them with metaldehyde."

Naturally I made a bee-line to the nearest hardware store in search of Sluggo. A rather officious clerk tried to sell me a common metaldehyde bait which, he said, they had sold for many years with no complaints. After my expression of horror over the product's toxicity, however, he admitted having received several requests for Sluggo in the past few days.

When I found Sluggo at a store with a larger garden department, I also found and purchased Sluggo Plus, . (The 'Plus' is for spinosad, which must be kept out of the reach of children but does not persist in the environment and may be used around edible plants up to three days before harvest). Sluggo Plus kills sowbugs and earwigs, and this indeed is a BIG plus since they are the primary predators of our strawberries. How sad it is to pick a ripe strawberry and find an earwig eating its way through the underside!

A two-cup plastic shaker (originally a garlic powder container) makes it easy to apply Sluggo Plus at the recommended rate of one teaspoon per square yard. Garlic scent pervades the iron phosphate/spinosad granules, and it's nice to think of the pests' last meal being lightly seasoned in this appetizing way.

Interestingly, Sluggo Plus costs about the same per ounce as Weetabix. I think we'll probably eat the rest of the Weetabix -- possibly with strawberries, for breakfast, but more likely as part of a topping for apple crisp or some such fruit-based dessert.

At the end of every radio program, Sergeant Preston used to say (to his trusty dog): "Well, King, this case is closed."

It will be good to move on.
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*Yes! Inspired by the City of Industry Snail Festivals in 1990 and 1991, we raised and ate snails for a short time.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License