There Ain’t No Cure For Slugs

Ducking obligations

Brendan during his ordeal

There ain’t no cure for slugs.

Or is there? Answers on a postcard please to me.

A little bird once told me that a duck is a great way of keeping slugs at bay, because he eats them, plain and simple. It’s not kind, but it is to me as my backyard gets far too many slugs and they devour my precious courgettes and runner beans. The little feckers saw through whole stems leaving nothing in their slimy paths. It seems ducks, chickens or hedgehogs are a good treatment.

I decided, seeing as I have a tiny backyard, about 12 ft by 16ft, that I would try a duck first, as they are the biggest of the three.

My pal Collette, who makes the yummy Nature’s Bounty range of jams and relishes (plug plug) offered to give me a loan of a duck. Duck for hire, free of charge, I had to take it. I drove out to her home today, armed with two sons and a cat box to transport the capturee. The ducks waddled around the wilderness that is their garden. It’s big, I thought, mine isn’t. While we had coffee Collette suggested that maybe two chickens would be better, they would be pals for each other and would give eggs too, win win. They eat slugs but love plants too, what’s to do?

Son No. 2 was hell bent on coming home armed with a duck, he had told all his pals that his “mad” mother was getting a duck for a pet, so he didn’t want to let himself down. I agreed to take one, to see how we got on. Collette’s son was recruited to do some duck catching. He chased the feckers round the garden, in and out, under trees, while the two dogs barked like mad, raced around and made everything impossible. Eventually a duck was captured and bundled into a box, then into the boot. So the ducknapping began.

Taking hostages is complicated business. If they don’t want to go they will make your life hell. The duck we captured was called the Gay Priest. He has a collar, as do many ducks. He has the name as he never tries it on with the lady ducks, instead he tries to get in the middle when the other males get it on with the female birds, maybe he hopes they won’t notice he’s a boy and do it anyway. Seems he never gets lucky, so he’s gay, but celibate. But that’s another debate, for another blog. We called our new duck Brendan, after a gay friend, and cos it suited him. Brendan wasn’t impressed with his new surroundings. Though he never actually said so. He just said “Waack” and “Waack” a lot. In a way he would make a great husband.

Wife “How are you dear?”

Husband “Waack”.

Wife “Yes, that’s awful, though not as bad as my day”.

Husband “Waaack”.

And on it goes

Brendan did a lot of duck pooh on the way home in the car. As soon as he stepped out of the box he said “Waack” and did a huge pee on the ground. then he jumped on all the plants and knocked a few over. Hmmm, no snail eating yet. I gave him some bread and he ignored it.

Waaack. Another pee, and a pooh.

The cat came into the kitchen. He went to the door and he froze. I imagine what went on in his cat mind was

WTF? WT F’in F is that F’in thing? OMG it’s F’in Christmas, where’s my knife and fork?

He stalked him from the door

Waack, said Brendan and flapped his wings. The cat was unflappable.

Cat hunkered down, a pose we have seen too many times as he goes for the street pigeons. We all yelled “Nooooohh”, and made a grab for him. “Somebody get that cat outta here”. Exit cat, no doubt planning ways to murder said large, unflying bird.

He looks lonely, I thought. This was a silly idea. I feel sad and stupid. I decide he has to go back, tonight. My friends will laugh at me, I’m used to that. Rather be stupid than cruel.

Brendan has to get back in the box. Have you ever tied to catch a large duck?

It’s not easy. My sons and I stood like morons in the yard looking at the bird.

Waack, he said as he taunted us and flapped his massive wings.

We walked slowly towards him, he jumped on plants. I panicked, he ran. I called my sons Marys. He waddled awkwardly into the kitchen at high speed and into the kitchen door, we stumbled  after him. He ran back to the back door and stepped his massive foot into the cats bowl of milk, he slipped and milk went flying everywhere. Mayhem.

I called a friend who was already laughing at me. I needed “how to catch a duck” advice.

Throw a blanket over him.

Great, somebody who knows something, said my Son.

Duck was captured with said blanket, it worked and it was only a sheet, now a sheety sheet but still. Duck went into the boot of the car and the return trip to the countryside began.

Halfway there my petrol tank signaled empty. Ha, I had left my money at home in the panic to get duck out of the country. So, not only did I go to a friend today to borrow a duck. She also gave me six fresh duck eggs, two jars of yummy relish and lots of hospitality.

Here was I, returning in the middle of dinner time with a messed up duck and asking for money. You gotta love me, I try.

Brendan reluctantly left the box and was promptly chased back to his ducky pals by the two crazy dogs. He was right back in the gaggle, no doubt telling his tale of imprisonment in a Limerick yard.

He looked at home and I knew I did the right thing.

Chickens next.


Val’s Kitchen

48 thoughts on “There Ain’t No Cure For Slugs

  1. I tried a pair of Indian Runners once as slug patrol, and it was an unmitigated disaster. They showed complete disdain for our slithery slimy friends, but delighted in trashing the salads. They were great entertainment though. Muscovy ducks are reputed to be the best slug killers, next to a bucket of salt anyway.

    On the other hand, chicken hens are good as pets, and they are very therapeutic. From where do you plan to source your birds?

  2. Nice bedtime story there Val Bites.

    I’m told cruched egg shells around plants does the trick. Failing that grit.
    I once buried jam jars with old stale beer in them. This attracted and drowned slugs. I’ll never know though if it attracted more slugs into the garden than it displaced.
    whatever you do, do not use slug pellets as birds eat them and die. These same birds would have eaten the slugs.

  3. Val, Some years back when I had a very prolific veg garden, less so these days, but all that is about to change, full circle and all ! A very wise old man showed me how to construct a slug trap, As the ducks and chickens were exceptionally useless, It was very simple but very effective dependent though on early rising, Make a little shelter out of slate, floor sides and top, place a handful of greens inside, First thing in the morning it will be full of slugs, They are very attracted to slate because it is so easy to traverse, and cosy, How you dispose of them will be entirely up to yourself.

  4. Limace a la bourguignonne doesnt sound as romantic as Escargot a la bourguignonne, Limace on a menu sounds like a dandruff shampoo……….Irish slugs though with cabbage and stilton sitting on a bed of mashed dandelion root, I might just write a Hedgerow cook book for these new times.

  5. Make friends with slugs by starting a slug farm. Fatten them up with lots of leaves and grass cuttings. Then they can be exported to France, where la haute cuisine prevails. Otherwise I endorse the buried jar of stale beer treatment mentioned above.

    An alternative would be a reversal of the adage: If you can’t lick ’em like ’em. Here is a site that tells you how to keep pet slugs:-

  6. I use copper, it works. You just put a strip around your pot and the slugs get an electric shock of sorts as they try to move over the copper. You can get copper strips in garden centres but they are expensive. Only really work for potted plants too. Its cruel but you could put salt at strategic locations around your plants. They slugs will be semi dissolved. Again, it only works for potted plants/grow bags, don’t apply to soil-raised beds etc.

    A toad is a slugs nemesis so maybe you could get one from a pet shop (although I doubt there is a demand for toads as pets)? Birds love slugs but slugs usually leg with before dawn when birds are about. If you put citrus or melon rinds out at dusk the slugs should still be under them come the morning. Simply turn the rinds over to expose the slugs and the birds should swoop in.

    You could also buy special packs of nematodes (parasitic microscopic worms) that will kill slugs (after being ingested) and are harmless to eveything else, the thought of them makes me nervous so I’ve never used them. They are said to be very effective.

    I’m investing in two chickens soon so i’ll get to check that method out, if they don’t eat the slugs i’ll attach a LASER to their heads so they can zap them. Chickens with LASER’s, its the way forward.

  7. Yes, Builder, slug farming for export to the French restaurant trade would deal with a pressing issue of the day – job creation. Bock’s blog does deal with many issues of the day, but psychological relief from depressing issues of the day can be provided by threads like this.
    Culture is also important as a source of consolation and inspiration in this troubled world.

    Here is a link to Thom Gunn’s famous poem, Considering the Snail:

  8. Sorry for laughing Val but that’s one of the funniest posts I’ve read in a while.Did you see the evil look in poor Brendan’s eye in the photo?

  9. Hi everyone,
    Thanks for all the helpful tips, I’ll make some beer traps right after I finish this can, hic!
    @Mule taker, I’m glad you are amused, it was the look in Brendan’s eyes that guilt-tripped me into taking him back.
    Cat is now very happy he has the place to himself and is trying it on with me constantly, at least Brendan would never do that, being gay, and a duck.
    As luck would have it we had a class in keeping chickens today. Seems I can do it, just hope they don’t mind the vicious skanky cat lurking in the shadows with a packet of Bisto

  10. Yes indeed Cap’n.And anyhoo,taking knocked over plants,shitty sheets,a milk spattered kitchen and a tormented cat into account,you’re probably safer with a slug or two.

  11. @irate chemist
    I’m familiar with the copper treatment, but my main problem comes from slugs who seem to paraglide onto lovely, tall runner bean plants and devour all the tiny beans, ditto for the courgettes, salads and spinach. I have a small roof garden and they haven’t twigged the plants up there, but the feckin caterpillars have, the bastards. Salt is ikky as slugs give me the willies anyway when they are whole and living, never mind half dissolved. I’ve been told that a wet newspaper left out overnight will have lots of slugs under it in the am and then I can feed them to the local seagulls. Finally, a use for the Limerick Independent

  12. construct a slug trap using an old plastic container and half fill with beer
    put a rased lid on to keep rain off

  13. I just spent a fun ten minutes in the yard on a slug killing spree. I did the salt thing, it’s horrible. Very wicked-witch-of-the-westy. I poured the salt onto the busy little feckers and saw them dissolve in an ikky hiss, then fall off the wall, all powerless and defeated vampiresque. Yuk. Also made two slug traps out of beer, and have now got to drink the rest of the crate.

  14. It’s a nasty business, but they don’t respond to harsh language. I’ve tried and it doesn’t work.

    Clear off you slimy fecker!!


  15. They are all God’s creatures and in many ways they are much like ourselves, but I suppose they can be very annoying much like ourselves.

  16. Some of them are a bit slimy, like a few of yer mates Father Fitz. Like some bankers, financiers, builders, politicians, publican tax evaders… [continued p. 57]

  17. FF thanks for your comment. Indeed they can be annoying, just like ourselves. If only pouring a spoon of salt on some annoying drunk fecker would make him melt and disappear, that would be truly miraculous

  18. Get a slug trap, I think aldi or lidl were selling them, what ya do is put beer in the bottom, they cant ignore the taste, then again, who can, but they fall in then drown in the beer, its the most humane way to go really!! :) You can also do it with a bottle or a tin, give it a go :)

  19. I believe ducks and hedgehogs are great for eating slugs, but maybe that wouldn’t be ideal in a city garden. What do I know?

  20. If you wanted to keep ducks in a city garden you’d have to provide a duck pond and if that wasn’t excavatable you’d have to sacrifice the kiddy’s inflatable swimming pool – and that’ll result in lots of hollering if the kid realizes it isn’t a rubber duck that’s crapping in the inflatable pool. A hedgehog is a good slug eater but also a kleptomaniac flea collector.

    Lateral thinking is called for.

  21. 90% water mixed with 10% ammonia in a mister/repuposed sprayer. Melts the buggers and is very satisfying. I’ve heard you can use epson salts too?

  22. @ Bock, see above post for Duck experience.

    @ Lette, beer traps work well, just fill a shallow, empty tuna tin with beer and sink in into a pot or the soil. Throwing salt at them works too, but it’s truly gross

  23. It’s sold here (Northeast US) in the cleaning products section. A gallon of it costs about 3 dollars. It’s great for bathroom cleaning and laundry stains like ink. Don’t mix it with anything though. It causes eye stinging gases to be produced. Try a hardware shop if it’s not in the cleaning aisle.

  24. Eye stinging gases is the least of your worries, but yeah! I assumed you lived in Ireland, chemicals like ammonia are not sold over the counter here, I hope. I was in the states a few years back and was surprised at the range of chemicals you could walk into a shop and buy, without any questions asked. You can buy epsom salts alright OTC in a pharmacy but its the hydrated form so don’t think that would kill slugs, the anhydrous would, that would mean trying to wrangle some from a chemical supplier or heating your epsom salts in the oven for a few hours.

  25. I never quite understood what Epsom salts did for the body. You could probably kill the slugs by pounding them with a heavy bag of the stuff, or by suffocating them in it though.

    Amonia was widely sold years ago in Ireland for some obscure hairdressing activity. I remember my mother using it, and I remember recoiling from the attack on my lungs.

  26. A bag of door knobs would do the trick, Bock. I think the Epsom salts just made bathwater more dense and allowed one to float.
    In a truly shameful episode involving the medical establishment and the pharmaceutical industry, millions of women died from eclampsia, mostly in poor countries. The research was finally done a decade ago and confirmed that the best treatment is lots of simple, cheap magnesium sulphate taken intravenously. Epsom salts!

    I remember buying a bottle of hydrogen peroxide in the US, then again, I also had the opportunity to buy a tazer/cattle prod in a seaside shop. Ammonia can be used by people of dubious character to make explosives, like the IRA using farm fertilizer a couple of decades ago. Funnily enough, the authorities added a secret ingredient to “deactivate’ the nitrates, magnesium!

  27. How about biological; nematodes? Laying down sand or saw dust also works but can be messy.

  28. Nematodes will take slugs out for sure, but perhaps might not be so effective in a concrete yard. If you pour the suspension on the ground maybe most of them will just dry out.

  29. Probably should have mentioned that with all this hot, dry weather, I have no slug problem, for now. The current beasties are greenfly and, worse again the dreaded whitefly turned up on a house plant, so new solutions please. I am familiar with nematodes but it’s daft using a treatment like that on such a small scale

  30. Yeah, I use it on my tomato plants that are getting infested with mites, greenfly and whitefly. It smells funny and is quite expensive–28 euro for 250 mL. It is really good and i’m happy to recommend it.

  31. My Indian buddies swear by Neem Oil. That’s interesting to know about the ammonia not being sold. I use it for tons of household jobs, no bombmaking yet:).Borax, Ammonia and White Vinegar are the frugal purchases here for cleaning.
    You can buy some interesting stuff here no doubt. It varies state to state mind you but the farther you get away from the cities the more bizarre the items are. Fireworks laws are all over the place. Gun laws are too.

  32. I got the neem oil and am treating the plants, the bastard whiteflies are spreading. Is it safe to use on edible plants?

  33. Yeah, I looked into that, its safe to spray up until the day of harvest. Non-toxic to humans, wash well before eating. I sprayed my lettuce with the oil and it left no taste after I rinsed. Its important to spray in the early morning and afternoon only, it is harmful to beneficial insects as an aerosol. As soon as it dries it targets sucking and chewing insects. Bastards.

    My spinach seedlings were covered in greenfly this morning, just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.

  34. Yuk spinach with greenfly, they really are horrible little yokes. I have some on lettuce which was also a surprise but not as much as finding them on basil seedlings, have they no shame? The washing up liquid works ok but it’s chemical really so I’d rather not do it. Neem may also have an effect on the overall fly population? Apparently fleas hate it, as they do lavender. Do you know if lavender works against green and white fly?

  35. I don’t know to be honest Val, i’ll have a look round and get back to you. I have two varieties of lavender and there is not one creature near them. Most of my aromatic herbs, like mint, thyme and peppermint, have no pests. It would not surprise me that the compounds we find pleasant are toxic to certain pests. Secondary metabolites and all. Neem seems to work in mysterious ways, it seems to have a range of effects, including interrupting the life cycle of flies. I guess its going to have an effect on populations if you get them young enough.

    As for washing up liquid being a chemical, everything is a chemical after all, even the water coming out of your tap at home. I understand your concerns–it is synthetic. I’ve read that soap works, and that is as natural as you can get (detergent wise!).

  36. Afraid lavender has no insecticidal effect, thats not to say that insects might not like the smell and keep away. I found out that any soap or detergents with Laurate (C-12) in the ingredients are the best for spraying on plants. Coconut oil is naturally packed with ~47% lauric acid (C-12 chains), I reckon thats really worth a go.

  37. I used the neem once yesterday and seems to have had a noticeable effect already. Though the greenfly are now on my spinach seedlings too and the courgette plants, I’m not impressed. The whitefly are more disgusting to me, they seem sneakier the way they just turn up like that. On another note I have just bottled lots of elder champagne, might post it later, it’s very easy

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