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Slug Bait

Slugs may be repulsive to you, but their appearance is rivaled by the ugliness they inspire in people.

I’ve been in a mood to start thinking about the gardening year that will begin a couple of months from now, so I flipped through last year’s special spring garden issue of Martha Stewart’s magazine at a friends house earlier this week. It was difficult to sort through all the advertisements to get to the magazine’s actual content, but eventually I settled into a feature called “Gentle Reminders”.

These reminders turned out to be not very gentle. “While in the garden, lay down bait for slugs, since their eggs often hatch in early spring.” What a nice thought for the Easter season: Kill what you can before their eggs hatch.

The killing of slugs is generally accomplished with poisons. Some of them are merely cumbersome and costly. Included in the cumbersome are little trays of beer or yeast and water that have to be laid out night after night. The last thing I want to do with my beer is feed it to slugs who will then drown in it, ruining the taste. Less work, though much deadlier, are slug baits of neurotoxin mixed with molasses. That doesn’t seem like the safest thing to place amidst your growing vegetables – dogs have been known to die from slurping the mixture down.

But why get rid of the slugs in the first place? Slugs are actually good for the soil. They eat dead things and then defecate the remains, speeding up the process of decomposition. If it weren’t for slugs, we’d be complaining of poor soils and plant diseases. We’d see a lot more flies and their maggots in the garden patch too.

Besides that, slugs serve as food for a lot of helpful garden animals: Toads and snakes, for example. Toads and snakes eat slugs, spread the resulting organic material around, and go on to eat other small animals that eat our precious garden plants too. Take away the slugs, and you’ll have fewer of these larger predators, and maybe none at all.

Who would want to transform the garden into an place of poisons, anyway? Someone like Martha Stewart, I suppose – a city dweller who pays other people to garden, in order to create an appearance of what they think a quaint country garden would look like, with everything neat and tidy, framed by outdoor furniture that’s been “antiqued” so as to look authentic, but is stored inside the garage every winter so that it doesn’t become genuinely careworn.

As for myself, I’d rather have the slugs.

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