Slugs are a common problem in many gardens and yards, but are a particular nuisance in areas where there is an ample amount of moisture throughout the summer. The pests themselves are relatively harmless to humans in most cases, but they can cause a large amount of damage to plants and can actually cause accidents when they appear on common walkways. In nature, slugs are an essential part of the ecosystem because they help to remove rotting and decomposing materials from the ground, but in a compact and healthy garden this appetite can quickly turn from decaying leaves to ripening fruits and vegetables.
When present in a garden, slugs will sometimes attack healthy growing plants. They have a voracious appetite that is similar to some other destructive insects such as caterpillars. Some slugs target seedlings and young plants that have many leaves down near the ground. Other slugs will climb up to get to succulent leaves. In some cases, especially with citrus fruit that is not quite ripe yet, slugs will travel up an entire tree to get the fruit, although they also like fruit that can grow closer to the ground like strawberries and tomatoes. The damage that is done appears as a missing area that has blackened bite-like marks along the edge. In seedlings, this can kill the entire plant.
There are a few ways to control slugs, but slug bait is one of the most popular. Laying down the bait throughout a garden, under plants, and near areas where there are low growing fruits will capture and kill the slugs before they have a chance to reach the plants. Less commonly used, some gardeners employ physical barriers that are mixed into or laid on top of the soil to kill the slugs, although these might not always work and can be hit or miss depending on the type and size of the slugs. This is why slug bait is usually the most effective method for controlling the pests in a garden.
If there is extensive damage to plants that seems to appear more frequently at night, then there is a possibility that slugs are the culprit. One way to check a garden or yard for slugs is to look at areas that are flat and relatively clear. Slugs leave a trail of protective mucus on the ground wherever they go which will remain visible for a few days if it is not washed away. This same mucus can be seen on the stems and leaves of plants near the damage. Identifying the mucus trails can help to determine where to set the slug bait when attempting to control the pests.
Laying down slug bait around a garden will draw slugs away from edible crops, and can also keep them from moving across areas where people walk. If a slug happens to cross an open walkway and then dies or stops, stepping on the slug can cause a person to slip and fall. Any garden or yard can benefit greatly from slug bait when it has been determined that slugs are present in the area.