Slugging out Spring in the Pacific Northwest

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While endless spring rains may keep Northwesterners pent up inside, it will not deter snails and slugs from wreaking havoc on our gardens.  Hostas may soon look like Swiss cheese and lilies become stumps if these slimy creatures are left to roam unchecked.  The Oregon blustery winter will soon finish and people will wander out into the sunshine and a lush green world.  As gardeners tally the damage these pests have done to their corner of Eden, they often race in a panic to nurseries, home repair warehouses, or local grocery stores to find something, anything, that will halt the destruction of their beloved plants.  Unfortunately, many homeowners will end up doing unintended harm to pets by buying chemicals to deter bugs and then applying these toxic products where dogs and cats can sample them.

We have seen literally hundreds of “customers” in the VCA NWVS emergency room from one culprit:  metaldehyde-containing slug bait.  Cheap, abundant, and well advertised, these baits seriously affect the central nervous systems and livers of dogs and cats.  Tremors, drooling, and restlessness will proceed to seizures and death within hours to days of ingestion of this slugbait if treatment is not started quickly.  This scenario can be avoided altogether if non-toxic alternatives to metaldehyde are used:

  •          beer or yeast placed in slug traps,
  •         copper bars or crushed eggshells placed around plants (these create a barrier effect to slugs)
  •         iron phosphate — a commercially available slugbait that has been shown to be non-toxic to pets and wildlife

Use whatever method of slug-deterrence works best for you—the most personally satisfying to the author is the search and destroy method involving the cover of dark, a flashlight, and a large rock!

For those of us who till the warm Northwest soil with energy and enthusiasm, it increases our pleasure have our furry friends beside us kicking up some dirt too.  We just need to be careful in our efforts to beautify our landscape as some of the “tools” we use to do it — specifically the chemicals we apply to gardens, plants and lawns — can be hazardous to the living creatures with whom we share this space.