Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Real Trap

I know what you're thinking, but you're wrong. Only the behavior of adults can drive me to drink . . .

. . . or perhaps, possibly, that of gastropods.

Our cauliflower has been under attack and several of our formerly thriving plants have withered away. We know it's due to slugs because we've actually found a couple tiny ones hiding on the undersides of the leaves.

After all the "trap" building we've had going on around the school this summer (here and here) I thought it was time we built a real, deadly trap, in the hopes of saving what's left of our crop.

If you haven't done this before, it's very simple. Locate a dish of some sort (we used a frisbee) near your besieged plants and fill it with good old American union made beer. Alternatively, you can just choose the least expensive beer in the cooler, slugs aren't picky. In this case the good old American union made beer was also the the cheapest so you know I'm living right.

I'd drawn a fairly large crowd as I poured it out. It was quite warm and the bottle had been sitting in the sun for an hour, so it was frothy and fragrant. Several of the children remarked that it smelled like bread, which given that both beer and bread are made with the same ingredients, was an astute sensory observation.

I explained how the trap was going to work. Slugs like beer. They will crawl into the frisbee to have a taste, not be able to get out, and drown. I said that we were hoping to find the dish full of dead slugs when we got back to school. A murmur ran through the assembled children, the word "dead" on all their lips. There were a lot of serious looks and some nodding. Needless to say, I had all of their attention.

Unfortunately, I'd not thought things through very well. We'd laid our trap before our 4-day weekend (our summer program is only running Tuesday-Thursday), which was sunny, and even as I left the school it occurred to me that positioned in the hottest part of the garden as it was, that 12 ounces of beer might well evaporate before we caught anything. Oh well, I thought, we'll learn something from that too. On the way home, however, I purchased another single bottle of PBR in anticipation of having the reset the trap this week.

Sure enough, the trap was almost completely dry when we returned, but it wasn't empty.

It might be hard to make out from the photos, but our trap was swarmed by armadillidiidae, commonly called roly polys or pill bugs (although they are technically not bugs at all, but rather crustaceans), some of which were deceased, but most of which were alive and kicking. Who knew they liked beer as well?

Over the course of the morning, I took several groups of children on a tour of our trap, Orlando being the most interested. After some study we noticed a gelatinous mass in the center of the frisbee, that seemed particularly attractive to the roly polys.

It didn't take me long to conclude that we had, indeed, captured our slug and it was being devoured by the roly polys. This was all very interesting, of course, but it would have been far more educational had we actually been in school to observe this entire gruesome nature story unfold over the course of 4 days.

Where there's one slug, there are bound to be more, I postulated, so we reset the trap yesterday. It was a cooler day and the beer was not particularly frothy or fragrant. B.J. leaned in for a sniff, and pronounced it odorless. Within minutes, the children noticed roly polys heading that way. That quickly. Amazing.

What will we find this morning?

Bookmark and Share


MOM #1 said...




SurprisedMom said...

Those photos will not entice me to the dinner table anytime soon. Yuk! I'm glad though you found that garden eating slug. I hope you get the rest of them!

Scott said...

Definitely a learning opportunity, Tom.

Monkey's Mama said...

If you have a salsa container (or a clear plastic container with a lid is even better for viewing) you cut some openings around the edge of the main container - bury it to the hole openings - put about an inch of beer in and put on the lid. We caught a bunch that way with less potato bug carnage.

Theresa said...

I had no idea that beer attracted slugs, much less rolly pollies. Neat, but yeah, gross. *laughs*

Deborah said...

That is just gross! LOL! I am sure your students loved every minute of their discoveries.

Cathy @ NurtureStore said...

We've had a battle with snails eating our sunflowers. A bug hunt found us quite a few of them - so we held a snail olympics. Kids loved it and it gave them the opportunity to really observe the snails.