Well, okay. It’s not a bug. It is a mollusk. Like a snail, without the mobile home on his back.
With all the moisture we have been getting we don’t just have to worry about mushrooms. Slugs are also a big problem. They love it when it is cool and moist. There are many species of slugs, they are not host-specific and have a very diverse diet with hostas being one of their favorite dinners. The positive side of the slug is that many species are decomposers and feed on fallen leaves, dead insects and dead worms. They also provide food for snakes, toads, turtles and birds. That still doesn’t help the hostas or other plants, though.
If you are determined to get rid of them you will probably have to work at doing so. Slugs are nocturnal and feed at night when we aren’t looking for them. They like cool, dark, moist hiding places during the day. We obviously have the moist conditions down. When it gets hot and dry, you would think they would die. Well, they don’t. They bury themselves int eh soil or find a well-protected (and moist) spot where they are in a kind of state of suspended animation. They surround themselves in a mucous-like cocoon and wait until it gets wet and cool enough again.
Slugs secrete this slimy mucous at other times as well. They will leave a silvery trail as they move across plants and smooth objects. They feed by grating away the surface of the plant.
In order to control slugs you need to control the favorable places where slugs live and reproduce. Get rid of wood chip mulch and replace with shredded mulch. The wood chips have a larger surface area for the slugs to hide under during the day. Open up the garden more to allow more air to dry out the moist spots. That may not work too well when we have been as wet as we have been, though.
You can use trap boards or moist newspaper or even carpet samples and place them on the ground around plants where slugs have been feeding. After a couple of days, look at the underside of the traps and remove and destroy any slugs that have gathered there.
Slugs love beer.
Use a shallow container, like a yogurt cup. Bury it to within a half inch of the rim and fill it with beer or even baker’s yeast dissolved in water. Slugs will crawl in and drown. You can put a loose cover over the beer trap to shade it and keep rain from diluting it.
Slugs don’t like to crawl over anything dry, dusty or scratchy. Put a border of lime, road dust, diatomaceous earth, cinders, coarse sawdust, gravel or sand around your plants or an area of the garden. In order to secrete enough mucus to free themselves from these materials they become exhausted and die. If you use this method remember that lime affects the pH of the soil. And never use salt because it isn’t healthy for most plant growth.
Since slugs are not bugs, they cannot be controlled with insecticides. You will need to use molluscicides. And many contain metaldehyde. It may be effective, but it is rapidly deactivated by sunlight and water so it needs to be reapplied frequently. You also can’t use it in vegetable gardens and can be toxic to pets if they ingest it.
If you want to go the most natural way, talk to the toads. Toads are the most important natural enemy of slugs.
And I have read that many people also say that ducks keep gardens slug free, too. Although I think they will quack, er, talk back at you. The toads may be a bit quieter.