Spring is here. Weather is warmer. Colours are back. Flowers are everywhere. Life is dandy, right? No! My garden is being marauded by slugs and snails, and I don’t know what else.
I was looking forward to enjoying the spectacular view of homegrown colourful tulips in April—views of long, slender, green stalks holding up the big, colourful petaled flowers swaying in the breeze. Unfortunately, life is not all that rosy. What I have are holes in tulip buds that are eaten right through, and thick, long green leaves riddled with holes. My two years of amateur gardening experience tell me that the most likely suspects of this flower crime are slugs and snails, and maybe perhaps caterpillars.
I have tried to use store-bought little organic blue pellets of ferric phosphate to deal with the slugs and snails. The mollusks are supposed to feed on these pellets which will cause digestion problems. The slimy creatures will then withdraw into hiding and eventually die from the pellets. Basically, they are being poisoned. It’s cruel but that’s life.
There is a problem with this solution. It seems that the effect of the pellets on the slugs and snails are not immediate, and I have no idea how long it will take. These creatures are still able to nibble on the plants after they consume the blue pellets. That means my plants will continue to suffer while waiting for the effect of ferric phosphate to start. How do I know this? I have caught snails bellyful of the blue stuff attacking my plants. BEWARE. VIOLENT CONTENTS AHEAD. When I see snails on my plants, I will pick them off and kill them. Sometimes, I see bluish, gluey stuff pouring out of the shells. It means that these creatures have ingested the pellets prior to eating my plants!
Based on my internet research, it seems that a beer trap is one of the better ways to trap the mollusks. The mollusks are attracted by the yeast in the beer and they will climb into the small containers of beer set next to the plants. These greedy creatures will climb in, get drunk and drown in the beer. When I first heard of the beer trap, I found it unbelievable and hilarious. For the sake of my garden, I have decided to give the beer traps a try.
The traps were simple to make. For the beer containers, I just recycled the empty mineral water plastic bottles and the little squarish plastic tubs of fromage blanc. As for the beer, I didn’t think that the creatures had any brand preferences So, I just grabbed the popular French 1664. It was definitely not the cheapest brands but my husband thought that we should get a beer that we would drink ourselves if the beer traps did not work.
The traps were set on the evening of 1 April 2023. I put four traps next to the tulips and one next to my Heuchera plant. And the traps actually worked! The next morning, I found two of the four tulip beer traps containing one and two slugs each. It was not a grand victory but at least it proved that the traps worked. Later in the evening, I found four slugs floating in the beer set next to my poor plumy coloured Heuchera plant. A total of three out of the five beer traps were successful. A 60% rate was good enough for me on the first trial.
After the second day, I changed the positions of some old containers and added a couple more. However, for the original containers, I did not bother to change out the old beer; I did wonder though whether the slimy creatures would mind the flat, corpses contaminated beer. It seemed that the slugs did not mind. On the 3rd day of my trial, I found more corpses floating in the beer.
I have continued with the beer traps. The traps have not attracted as many slugs as they first did, but they still attract two to three slugs per day. Better than nothing. The disappearance of even one or two slugs means fewer holes in my plants. Perhaps news have spread in the slimydom that a slug hater is around and the creatures are now more prudent in what they drink.
What I have noticed in the few days of experiment is that the beer traps seem to attract only (99%) slugs. I have only found one medium-sized snail so far in the trap. The internet readings I have done show that both snails AND slugs are attracted to beer. So, is it because the level of beer in the beer traps are too shallow for the snails, which are generally quite big in my garden, to drown? Or is the alcohol content in the beer too weak for the snails? Food for thought. To get rid of snails, I have to use another approach. Catch my update in the next post!