I’m taking a break from my first harvesting venture of the year. The daffodils are up. The flowering current is flowering, and the hellebores are waiting to be picked. I have one other chore that must be done, and soon. I have Creatures of Mass Destruction in my gardens.
Most people know that the Seattle area is rainy. Our cool moist climate is perfect for growing many things including slugs. We grow great slugs. Our banana slugs routinely grow to seven or eight inches long depending on how they like to stretch out. I don’t worry much about purebred banana slugs. They stay in the forest and eat decaying leaves. However those that have bred with our imported black slugs come out of the forest and eat daffodils. We have several other varieties of slugs in various sizes. They start hatching in late January or February.
If I am to have any success in the garden, I must be constantly vigilant in slug patrol. The ducks are my very best weapon in my War on Slugs. I let them loose to forage through the gardens. It is so delightful to stand at my window and watch the ducks digging through the grass looking for gastropodial treats. The chickens help by scratching up the moss and dirt to expose more of the little critters.
My poultry is great at keeping about a half-acre slug free. However, they don’t visit some areas of the garden, and I never let them outside the deer fence for their own safety. Thus, I have areas of my garden that are not defended by poultry. These areas call for my second line of defense. Beer.
Beer traps are exceedingly effective against slugs if used and positioned correctly. If you have northwest sized slugs, forget the cute little beer traps sold in garden supply catalogs. You need supersized traps for our supersized slugs. I use plastic half gallon orange juice bottles. I cut a big slot about four inches from the bottom of the bottle. Then add a can of beer. A trap this size is necessary because it will be full of dead slugs within hours. I use the cheapest beer I can find. I avoid light beer not knowing if it is smelly enough to attract slugs from a distance of fifty feet.
Now, the placement of the trap is important. It needs to be among those plants that slugs find attractive. I also put traps in areas where slugs are likely to hide. I usually keep one among the pots on the patio.
Okay, you have your half-gallon bottle with a big slot, a can of beer, and have selected your site for the trap. This next step is very important. I’ve adapted this from something I learned in college. Fill the trap with the can of beer. Gently place it on the leveled spot you’ve selected. Now, call out in a loud voice, “Frat Party!” For the piece de resistance, sing the Washington State University fight song. This will immediately attract the attention of all slugs within hearing distance, and they will come a crawling to drown themselves in your beer trap.
Some people find emptying the beer trap gross—just think beer-marinated escargot while dumping the full trap on the compost pile. I like to count the dead bodies. This helps me know if I am getting an area cleaned out.
Aside from occasionally needing to skewer or decapitate the rare abstemious slugs that show up in the evening or early morning, the combination of the ducks and the supersize beer traps keep the garden adequately slug free without expensive chemicals.