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MOISTURE-LOVING SNAILS ARE A SLIMY NEMESIS

When polling gardeners' frustrations, nothing is mentioned more frequently than pests. These infamous rogues of the garden include insects, mites, bacteria, fungi, viruses, mycoplasmas and nemotodes. Add rodents of all sizes, other mammals, birds, people and everything else and it is a wonder anything grows. In spite of all these pests, the most serious problems, according to various surveys, are the slugs and snails.

Slugs and snails, like many other serious pests, are imports into our gardens. Native species exist, but they never create problems like the introduced species cause. These creatures have similar anatomies and life cycles, except snails carry around a hard protective shell. Both glide along on a muscular appendage known as a "foot." They secrete a slimy mucous material that aids in their locomotion and leaves a silvery trail. Moving at a snail's pace is obviously fast enough to move across a yard and back overnight and still have plenty of time to cause damage.These "creatures of darkness" are up to no good as they silently move about the garden seeking to destroy your prize specimens. They work under cover of darkness or on cloudy days because heat and dryness are mortal threats to their well-being. They thrive under cool, moist conditions and seek shelter under rocks, wood or dead plants. Many practices that improve garden soils actually increase the favorable habitat for these creatures.

These pests are literal lawn mowers on newly germinating seedlings. They cause extensive damage to new foliage on annuals, perennials and many vegetables and damage products such as ripening strawberries or melons.

Getting the upper hand on this problem is not easy. Environmental manipulation is very important and starts with cleaning up their hiding places and drying out their habitat. Eliminate rocks, boards, old plants and don't overlook beds of ground cover and grassy areas. If you have serious infestations, locate vegetable and flower beds away from these areas.

Traps are an effective method to reduce pest numbers. My favorite trap is a 12-by-12-inch board with two strips of lumber nailed on the sides to hold it up off the soil. Find your first victim and smash it on the bottom of the board. These creatures seem to have a morbid attraction to areas where others have died. Set the board in a dark, moist spot in the garden and check traps each morning and dispose of the pests. If you are ambitious, hunt them down at night as they emerge to attack your plants.

Don't make the mistake of leaving the corpses in the garden. A slug or a snail is not a "he" or a "she" but an "it" - that means all are capable of reproducing. If that isn't bad enough, the eggs in the corpses often hatch even after the adults are dead.

If the idea of hunting or trapping the pests is not appealing, baits are your next option. Carefully use these to help in the battle, but don't depend on them as your only control. Baits contain me-tal-dehyde as an active ingredient. Some also have carbaryl or Sevin added to control earwigs, sowbugs and other pests. Metal-de-hyde is not a poison but a paralyzing agent. The pests consume the bait and are unable to move for several hours or days, depending on the dosage. They die if exposed to hot, dry conditions during this time. Baits work best during warm, dry weather with strictly controlled watering.

Never scatter baits indiscriminately throughout the garden. They lose their effectiveness if they get wet. A better method is to use bait stations made with discarded food containers such as cottage cheese containers. Cut several 1-inch-wide slots around the middle of the containers. Bury them so the bottom of the slots are even with the soil line. Put a small amount of bait in the containers and put on the lids to keep out the water and debris. Make baits more attractive by adding a few drops of orange or apple juice. Empty containers every few days and dispose of the carcasses. Another significant advantage of using these traps is that birds, pets or other non-target species cannot get to the baits.

Make alternative traps using shallow pans of water, yeast water or beer. The pests crawl into them and drown. Empty them as needed to keep them attractive as traps. Bury pie tins so the top of the lid is even with the soil.

Dozens of other methods for controlling slugs and snails are often promoted. Sprinkling them with salt causes them to shrivel and die, but adding salt to garden soil is never recommended. Barriers of sand, cinders, ashes or broken glass are not effective, as the pests glide over these with no problem.

Natural enemies include birds, some beetles, snakes, frogs and toads. These are not reliable enough to prevent all damage. Predatory snails are marked as an organic control but are not recommended, as they eat plants if there are no other snails.

- THE AFRICAN VIOLET SOCIETY OF UTAH'S annual Violet Show will be held Saturday, May 4, through Sunday, May 5, at the Sugar House Garden Center, 1602 E. 2100 South, from 1-5 p.m., both days.

There will be African violets on sale and advice on growing violets. Fran Taylor and Ruthann Lloyd are chairmen of the event.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

SLUG AND SNAIL CONTROL PRODUCTS

Brand name: ORTHO

Product name: Bug-Geta Snail and Slug Pellets

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 3.25 percent

Formula: Pellets

Remarks: Almond meal base

Product name: Bug-Geta Snail, Slug & Insect Granules

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 2 percent Carbaryl 5 percent

Formula: Granules

Remarks: Almond meal base

Brand name: LILY MILLER

Product name: Cooke Slug-N-Snail Liquid

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 10.5 percent

Formula: Liquid

Remarks: Good on small pests

Product name: Slug, Snail & Insect Killer Bait

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 2 percent carbaryl 5 percent

Formula: Granules

Remarks: Controls other pests

Product name: Slug & Snail Bait

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 2 percent

Formula: Granules

Product name: Hose 'n Go Slug and Snail Killer

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 10.5 percent

Formula: Liquid

Remarks: Good on small pests

Product name: Slug and Snail Line

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 4 percent

Formula: Paste

Remarks: Less attractive to non-target organisms

Brand name: FERTILOME

Product name: Slug & Snail Pellets

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 2.75 percent

Formula: Pellets

Product name: Eliminate Slugs & Snails

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 4 percent

Formula: Paste

Remarks: Less attractive to non-target organists

Brand name: HI-YIELD

Product name: Slug & Snail Pellets

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 2.75 percent

Formula: Pellets

Brand name: MOREGRO

Product name: Pest Meal

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 1 percent Carbaryl 4 percent

Formula: Meal

Remarks: Controls other pests

Brand name: CORRY'S

Product name: Slug & Snail Death

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 2 percent

Formula: Granules

Product name: Slug & Snail Pellets

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 2 percent

Formula: Pellets

Product name: Liquid Slug & Snail Control

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 4 percent

Formula: Liquid

Product name: Slug, Snail & Insect Killer

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 2 percent Carbaryl 5 percent

Formula: Granules

Product name: Liquid Slug, Snail & Insect Killer

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 2 percent Carbaryl 5 percent

Formula: Liquid

Remarks: Controls other pests

Brand name: DEADLINE

Product name: Deadline

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 4 percent

Formula: Bullets

Product name: Deadline

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 4 percent

Formula: Paste

Remarks: Less attractive to non-target organists

Product name: Pest Meal

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 1 percent Carbaryl 4 percent

Formula: Meal

Remarks: Contols other pests

Brand name: FRED MEYER

Product name: Slug & Snail Bait

Active ingredient: Metaldehyde 2 percent

Formula: Granules