The common name of slug is applied to all gastropods either lacking a shell altogether or having a greatly reduced or small internal shell. The usually slimy and soft bodies of slugs easily dry out. As a result land-living slugs have to hide in moist environments and retreat into damp places.
- Mostly Harmless
Most slug species are totally harmless to humans, as well as to their interests. A small number of them, however, can be serious pests to horticulture and agriculture. They are able to destroy foliage much faster than the plants can grow, subsequently managing to kill even fairly large plants. They feed on vegetables and fruits prior to harvest too, making unsightly holes in the crop. This can make the affected fruit or vegetables unsuitable for sale for aesthetic reasons, as well as making the whole crop more vulnerable to disease and rot.
- Baiting Slugs
Baits are used as reasonably effective control measures, both in the garden and agriculturally. Over the last few years, baits of iron phosphate have emerged, and these are much preferred over the toxic metaldehyde, in particular because wild or domestic animals may also be exposed to bait. Environmentally safe iron phosphate is proving itself to be just as effective as any poisonous baits, if not more so. Use of methiocarb baits has also been reduced in widespread areas.
- Simple Measures
Other, home-spun slug control methods generally tend to be quite ineffective in large areas, but can still be quite surprisingly useful in smaller gardens. These methods include, among others, beer traps, crushed eggshells, diatomaceous earth, copper and coffee grounds. Salt is definitely not a good idea. Although it will kill the slugs by drawing fluids out of their bodies, it will also kill any plants nearby by making the ground too saline.