Aunty’s war on slugs
Aunty has been trying to grow vegetables from seeds. Carefully planting Manoa lettuce seeds, Chinese parsley, and red lettuce in small raised beds. Watering gently and keeping the surface moist. Looking for sprouts that haven’t shown up. Failure!
The next strategy was to buy starter vegetables from Koolau Farms for $1.49. Carefully breaking up the clumping sprouts and transplanting them in the formerly unsuccessful raised beds. Shade the transplants with a cut branch of mango leaves (neighbor Mrs. Fujitani taught Aunty that trick) and water gently, twice a day. However, after about a week, these would become sparser and sparser and start to disappear.
Why? Because of dang slugs. Brown ones, blonde ones, black ones, and African snails – ooojey slimey mullosc that invade Aunty’s garden at night and hide behind rocks and pots during the day. Creeps. AND they are the carriers of the very bad rat lungworm disease that has become a problem in Hawaii.
War! Humpf! Ho – What is it good for?
A slug free yard and garden. Aunty’s war on slugs is fierce, cruel, gross, and fun. Pal Cookie calls Aunty “sick”. Aunty calls her a wimp because just the thought of going out slug hunting at night will send her home immediately.
Slug bait is okay but they seem to have an innate sense of avoiding what will kill them. Beer in a pan doesn’t seem to work with the slugs in Aunty’s yard. Instead, Aunty now uses 2 relentless hunting methods that work.
Slow and torturous
The first method was taught by a sweet old neighbor, Mrs. Fujitani, who also taught her how to grow a garden full of great Manoa lettuce from seed. She would wait until dark ~ about 9:00 pm or later, and go out into her garden with bamboo skewers in hand, and a flashlight. Each slug would be poked all the way through the middle of their oojey bodies. The next one would be poked, pushing the first one deeper on the stick, and so on and so on until she had a stickful of slugs (see the opening picture of skewered buggahs). She would then insert the dull end of the skewer into the ground, and they would die in the sun and dry up the next day.
Faster and still torturous
Mrs. Fujitani’s method was good, but Aunty expanded her nightly hunts to the entire yard, and several times, the “harvest” included African snails, so Aunty discovered a new use for ziplock bags.
Latex examination gloves have also become Aunty’s favorite fashion accessory. Donning those on both hands, and holding an open ziplock (sandwich size is just right) and lightweight LED flashlight in the gloved dominant hand, Aunty would wait until dark, and shine the light on the grass, sides of pots, inside gardens, even on concrete. Each slug and/or snail would be picked up with the non-dominant gloved hand and popped into the open ziplock bag. Find, pick, pop. Find, pick, pop. Occasionally one or two of those slimey buggahs would try to escape, so the non-dominant picking hand needs to push them back in the bag.
It is very important that only one hand touches the slugs and the other holds the bag and flashlight so that the flashlight doesn’t become slimed out. After the bag is full or the hunt is over for the night, put down the flashlight, seal the ziplock bag up tightly and throw away in your rubbish can. Then, carefully remove each glove, starting with the slug gathering non-dominant hand and then the “cleaner” hand. Toss those.
Slime bagging tips
It seems that the slugs and snails come out into the open at night to socialize and party, as well as to destroy Aunty’s vegetable starters. They like wet or damp grass or concrete. So, water during the day before it becomes dark. You are preparing the canvas for battle.
Hunt every night, if you can. The first night is the biggest catch.
Make it a contest between friends – who can catch the most slugs. Count and laugh – one slug, ah ah ah ah, two slugs, ah ah ah ah (just like Count Dracula from Sesame Street) but don’t be surprised if your friends decline and go home instead.
Make sure the bags do not have a puka or opening, or your rubbish can will have them crawling all over the next day (very gross, very gross, especially in the big grey bins that the City and County provide to us.) Sometimes, Aunty will put the bag in an empty plastic bottle with screw on lid as an added precaution. They are stinky while they are dying.
The best night to go slug hunting is after a heavy rain. They really come out to party and your bagging fingers will be busy and the bag filled up in a very short time. If you are feeling victorious and want even more of that feeling, go out again a couple of hours later when it is even darker and catch the latecomers.
If your neighbor asks you what you are doing, be honest. It is better for them to think that you are weird than for them to think you lost your marbles (and are looking for them).