From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

No More Slugs!

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... The Rural Life...



We've had a rainy summer here in Kentucky's Pennyrile. It hasn't been an extremely wet summer, but the rains have been regular. In fact, we had rain showers again today. Many years, we stop getting rain sometime in July and it's dry until sometime in late September or even October.

I'm glad that the farmers are harvesting a good corn crop and that they have a good crop of soybeans still growing, but I'm ready for dryer weather myself. For one thing, I'm tired of mowing the lawn. I started mowing regularly in early April, and it looks like I'll be mowing regularly through October.

I'm also afraid all this regular moisture might get the slugs started again. We used to have an unbelievable slug problem here, and I don't want a recurrence.

slugWhen we first moved out here, the slugs were everywhere, and there were lots of them. It was impossible to walk outside at night without stepping on them. One night I forgot and went outside barefoot. I felt a slug under one foot, recoiled in disgust, and stepped on another slug with my other foot.

These were not tiny creatures. Many of them were two inches in length, and some were three and even four inches long. In the garden, they wreaked havoc on the lettuce and other tender leaves and vegetables, and sometimes, I even found one inside the house, always in the catfood dish. Wherever they slithered, they left a shiny slime trail behind.

Some people said to shake salt on them to kill them, but after doing that I felt like a murderer. It seemed a horrible death, even for a slug. Yeast-water traps attracted them in the garden, but there was no end to the hordes. I've never wanted to use pesticides on the scale it would have taken to seriously decrease the population. We just accepted that the yard was full of slugs. I figured that all of Kentucky was like this.

Then we had a terribly hot, dry summer. The leaves turned brown on many trees before the first of August. Some trees even died from the drought, and we certainly didn't have to worry about lawn mowing. We were afraid that our well might go dry. Apparently the lack of moisture was hard on the slugs and they either died or weren't able to lay eggs because I haven't seen a slug in the yard since.

I think the reason the slugs got so overpopulated was that the farmland around us was in the CRP (Crop Reduction Program) for years. It was mowed once a year, and the hay was left lying on the ground. All that overgrown vegetation with the rotting underlayer of hay made a cool, damp habitat for slugs to breed and shelter in. I base this theory on something I read about slugs getting bad in fields that were no-till farmed for many years. Plowing the ground every five years or so is recommended to keep the slugs under control.

The land is now in active use, partly plowed and partly grazed, so we probably won't have another slug infestation even if the weather is wet for a year or two. At least I hope not!


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University of Kentucky fact sheet on slugs
CDC fact sheet about a parasitic disease you can get from raw slugs and snails


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2 comments:

limey said...

I can truly sympathise with you, but with us it is snails. My wife planted some pots by the front door, we had a drop of rain and the snail population exploded and all but devoured the new plants. We have just got back from two weeks vacation after leaving a lawn that seemed brown and dying due to the drought over here. We then had a lot of rain apparently and we come back to this lovely,long, lush green lawn with no way to mow it because it won't stop raining!!! Nature is truly a fickle beast.

Genevieve said...

Snails are just slugs with shells! I hope you had a good vacation, Limey, and I'm glad you got some rain even if the grass is making up for lost time.

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