Saturday, August 30, 2008

Murdering Killer Slugs in Sweden

Sweden has a bit of an infestation problem. Arion lusitanicus, for the biologists amongst us. Mördarsniglar for the Swedes amongst us. Spanish killer slugs for the English speakers amongst us. So-called because of their penchant for eating their weaker brethren… or their dead brethren for that matter.

These things aren’t really all that new to Sweden, but still considered an invasive species. They are Spanish after all. Last summer they were everywhere because of all of the rain. This summer wasn’t as bad, but bad enough that it led to debate in the Swedish parliament, the Riksdag. Finally, they decided that it was a good idea to use roundworms to solve the problem.

Anyway, with a little bit of rain, the slugs come out in full force, and the last couple of days Stockholm has seen a bit of rain, just enough to wet the ground and convince the slugs to come out. They are pretty solid size. Blackish. Imagine the long skinny pinecones and you’ve probably got the right idea. Some are fatter than others, some are longer. They come in all various sizes really.

But in my case, size does matter. Because I love to kill them. I consider myself just the next in line for the family business. Eradicating pests the world over.

A quick side note on the eradication of slugs. The summer before my senior year of high school I spent some time in France, “working,” but I was 17 and wasn’t exactly given a whole lot of responsibility. So I put labels on a pesticide. I also was tasked with scouring the internet for articles about a certain slug killing agent. This was before the widespread use of RSS feeds and news-aggregators, but basically I was a living, breathing news-aggregator. Maybe not too good at my job because I stuck to the English language sites, but so it goes. Anyway, as I searched for slug killers I stumbled across a little survey done by Colorado State University. An esteemed university that has seen plenty of my friends walk across stage with their degrees in hand.

As many people already know, beer is often used as slug bait. Take a little dish, fill it with beer, bury it with a little bit of a lip sticking out of the ground and the slugs manage to find their way into it. Whether they drown or drink themselves to death I don’t know. Maybe the old man can answer that. But CSU, putting state tax payer’s money to good use, decided it was necessary to figure out which beer was most effective in attracting slugs. Turns out that the ever-popular Kingsbury Malt Beverage took the cake, followed closely by Anheuser-Busch’s stable of beers: Michelob, Bud, and Bud Light. Here is the Colorado State University beer and slug study for the skeptics out there.

Anyway, back to the killer slugs. Like I said, size matters. The bigger the slugs, the more satisfying. Because they pop. Literally. If you step on a fat killer slug, you can hear them pop.

And I know, it sounds bad. I am heartless. How could I do that to another living creature? But whatever, it’s the same sort of sick satisfaction some people get from picking scabs or popping blackheads. I step on killer slugs. I’m just doing my part to assist farmers and local gardeners in their quest for delicious vegetables.

I have even started listening to how I get the best pop. I have two pairs of shoes I tend to wear. One a sort of hybrid tennis shoe/all terrain shoe, the other an extremely fashionable brown Nike shoe. Kind of along the lines of Pumas. But Nike. Because they were on sale at Kohl’s, and who are we kidding, I’m not really that fashionable.

Anyway, the tennies give the best pop. I’m not really sure why it is but I have a theory. The Nike’s are a little rounded on the edges so I don’t get that abrupt edge that can really seem to pop the slug guts out. I haven’t really experimented with my sandals. For obvious reasons I think. But my footwear acts as an organic pesticide. Sweden loves that sort of thing.

Welcome to Sweden. Where even you can do your part in eradicating the scourge of invasive species in the Swedish countryside.

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  1. I really enjoy your writing. You have a good style about it. I just moved to Lund from the USA. I'm studying a master's program there. I'm hoping to make it to Stockholm at some point. Your blog is great.


  2. Oh, and by the way, I'm a 2005 graduate of Colorado State. We have one of the best micro brew cultures in the world in Fort Collins, so it should come as no surprise that we are researching yet another of the 'many' uses for the sweet nectar known as beer.

  3. haha, you're weird.
    That is very gross though. I'd rather stick to popping blackheads :P

  4. @the dude (I hope I can call you "the dude") - glad youve enjoyed the blog. and wlecome to sweden. lund is a beautiful city. and you should definitely make your way to stockholm.

    andvery cool about CSU. I'm from Greeley so all kinds of friends ended up there. and come to think about it, you're right... it should have been obvious that a city that boasts as many breweries as ft. collins would do research into the various uses of beer.

    @jessica - maybe alittle bit. but Im helping the environment. just think of it that way. Im like an environmental activist.

    and you pop blackheads.

  5. I suggest you to submit to some science journal your shoes-slug observation with the title, "A comparative study on the efficacy of footwear in inducing micro-explosion in Arion lusitanicus". LOL!

  6. Just got home from work and read your article. Now I'm sitting here laughing quite insanely to myself thinking of you squishing killer slugs. Not so much because I think squishing them is funny, but because my daughter ( who is deathly afraid of just about every insect ) spent a few evenings doing the same thing whilst we were in Arvika this summer. She's only 6, but overheard a conversation about said slugs and how much of a nuisance they are becoming. So the very first one she found became I giant splatter in the garden.. she was vigilant and dutifully killed every one she found the rest of our holiday. Now we're back in Canada and the poor child can't find 1 decent slug to slay!

  7. Dear H.S.!
    You shouldn't kill them by that! They eat each other (=killers) so it's more food for the others. They just multiply because of you. I thought you knew that, since you've studied it. If you really want to help, gather them in a box and burn it. That's how we do in Finland. They are pests over there too.

  8. Hi Jeff -
    Glad to see you made it to this blog. How is Lund so far? My wife and I have been enjoying your blog.

    Hairy. Gross.

  9. Hairy--this reminds me of being a kid in Taiwan--we had these huge snails called Benjo Snails (translates as gutter snails). The Benjo Snails were about the size of a fist and were great for throwing up agains a wall--made a huge splatter!

  10. @mogli - I think you're on to something. if they can do studies about which beer works best I can doa study on which shoe works best.

    @anonymous - I'm glad that my behavior is tantamount to that of a 6 year old girls. But I'm also proud of her. It sounds like she did good work.

    @smek - I like to think of the dead ones as bait. I can't tell you how many times I have come back out only to find a slug eating one of the previously murdered slugs.

    @john s.- yeah... a little bit.

    @john - I have yet to throw one. but it is tempting. I imagine a nic brick wall would work well.

  11. Oh man, you are hilarious. You should go visit Australia someday and go on a Cane Toad killing spree. I've done it; it is some what satisfying experience--help eradicate invasive species.

    Ah, to kill the toads, it is best to rent a car and just run over them. You can use a bat or something to smash them, but stepping on the won't work too well. These guys spit toxins and stuff...

  12. @me - glorious advice. Ive actually spent a month driving through eastern australia but had no idea there were toads out there waiting for me to kill... if only I had known.