If every living being is equal, then I am a mass murderer. The genocide I have inflicted on the various members of the slug family is truly disturbing me. In terms of single species, the vivid green caterpillar, offspring of the too-well-known white cabbage moth, has sustained the greatest casualties , sometimes 50 on one leaf! I can safely say, thousands have felt the life squashed out of them between my fingers.. that’s right I dispatch them in this grotesque manner because it is simply faster. I have also noticed that if I put one finger behind the leaf and leave them squished in place, there are a lot less visitors to those grizzly leaf-crime scenes. It advisable to do this only on the outer leaves that won’t be in your dinner.
I had originally supposed that the different colourings represented different stages of the same species, but now I am inclined to think that the colourful caterpillar comes from, and evolves into a different species. Anyone know their caterpillars?
Of course all this death and destruction can be easily avoided with some kind of crop cover that prevents the wily white moth from laying her exquisite yellow clusters of eggs on the underside of your cabbage leaf. The most common is a horticultural fleece which can be suspended over the crop, or stretched over hoops like a mini-poly-tunnel. I was too cheap to fork out for some fleece, and decided to protect my tiny but valuable number of brassicas with a vigilant patrol of the plants on regular occasions, rubbing out the easily spotted sacs of yellow eggs, before they form into cute caterpillars. Prevention is better than cure. Protecting against conception is preferable to abortion in gestation.. and saves time. I thought I had it under control back in July when the sky was thick with flying white egg-bombers, when I managed to keep the cabbages relatively egg-free, but what I failed to realise was that the curly Kale growing among the other brassicas was an equally attractive haven for egg-laying, even more so, since the frilly edges create LOTS of hiding places. It was only when I happened to glance closely at a kale leaf that I realised the scope of the problem.. each leaf on the 6 or 7 plants was crawling.. but they hadn’t ravaged the leaves, just nibbled them.. the brussels sprouts, calabrese, purple-sprouting broccoli and savoy cabbage were at times, so annihilated that there was only a skeleton remaining, but the Kale had hardly noticeable damage with more mouths on board.
Meanwhile.. the war on slugs has escalated to bringing out the big guns.. beer traps.. i know, another cruel mode of dispatch, one which i never really agreed with, for lots of reasons, but eventually I resorted to it in the far field, given that I can’t be there at night to hunt. The organic pellets that are promising to kill only slugs, are vanishing with no dent in slug population, are quite expensive, and still are held in suspicion by me. The witches brew of slug tea is being used liberally and may well be working, but hard to gauge when we implement multiple measures simultaneously..
In case your interested, the slug tea is brewed by collecting a bean can full of slugs, leaving them in a sealed bucket with 2 inches of water in it, for 2 weeks, then filling the bucket. Apparently this encourages the multiplication of a parasitic nematode that lives in the slug and eventually eats it alive, from the inside.. nice!
You then add a cup of dead-slug tea to your watering-can and spread your army of slug-eaters into the veg patch. Another theory is that slug tea, with it’s aroma of ex-slugs, will deter their brothers and sisters from entering the area, nematodes or not!
My favourite form of defence against slugs is a more passive one. It involves providing the slugs with a haven to shelter, such as a plank or piece of black plastic and then checking underneath it regularly to remove the culprits.