Friday, May 27, 2011

Slug hunting season is IN.

Banana Slug, native to Pacific Northwest forests.
For anyone who lives in a dry climate, or one with cold winters, this is a slug.  Slugs are hermaphroditic mollusks that live in our temperate, moist forests.  However, a European variety was first discovered in 1933 in a Seattle garden, and this species has flourished to become the number one enemy of Northwest gardeners.  While I rarely find a native Banana slug in my garden, I spend time every day collecting European Red Slugs as they devour my precious plants.

Anouk gets paid 10 cents per slug, and we have had to fork out an alarming amount of money this season.  Unfortunately, I like slugs when they aren't eating my plants, and I hate killing them.  This was my main motivation for getting ducks.  Slugs are a yummy duck treat, and it provides a quicker death for the slugs than snipping or salting.  (They seem to take at least 10 minutes to die, even when snipped in half, and it looks miserable.)
This is Arion Rufus, the non-native variety.
Sometimes, I'll find 10 slugs eating a single plant.
Here is a very sad kale that has been ravaged by slugs.
This year, possibly because it has been so very wet, it seems like we are extra inundated.  Usually, after about a week of daily slug hunting, the numbers diminish significantly.  I collect them on wet evenings or after a rain shower, and I feel like they just keep coming by the bucketload.
My ducks can't keep up with the supply.  They gobble them down, but after too many, they start spitting them back up.  Last night, Mike drove a bucket up to some raw forest property and dumped them out for me.  It might be more humane, but it really isn't good for our ecology.

So, if you live in the area, it is important to know the difference between the beneficial Banana Slug and the invasive species.  Be brave and pick up a slug, let it slide over your hand, and talk to it.  They respond to voices and music, and they are fun to learn about and observe.  Did you know, if you lick a slug, your tongue will become numb?  How do I know this? 
I'n not thelling.

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