Mission Impossible: Hedgehog Squad

Posted: 1. September 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

My primary enemy in my ongoing conquest of turning the wilderness of my back garden into an arable area is the Arion lusitanicus, the Spanish Slug.

This highly invasive species of gastropods have expanded from somewhere on the Iberian Peninsula throughout the entire European mainland since by some time in the 1950s, probably due to human activity, either deliberate or accidental, and they are highly detrimental to all agricultural initiatives because they will feed on any kind of vegetation. They inhabit cultivated as well as natural habitats of any kind. They have even been found in places up to 1700 m. altitude. They are hermaphrodites, meaning that one single slug can start an infestation, and they lay hundreds of eggs at a time, so at least some of them will survive.

We call them Killer Slugs, originally because they will eat their own dead, but also because they kill our crops.

A magnificent and mercyless opponent.

We have them in our backgarden, by tens of millions (give or take). Fortunately, this Summer has been extremely dry, and draught is the only natural enemy of these aliens (I'm not joking about them being aliens, they are considered among the 100 worst alien species in Europe in DAISIE: the European Invasive Alien Species Gateway.)

They ate the first generation of my strawberries. It stopped when I dug a ditch around the plants and poured the content of used coffee filters into it. They ate my Basil, before it even came out of the ground. They are everywhere. At nights, you can't put a foot down without squashing a handful of them.

That was the bad news. Now for the good news.

We have hedgehogs in the garden. Hedgehogs eat slugs. And though the Killer Slug isn't on the top of their list of favorites, because of the copious amounts of mucus the slugs emit when disturbed, they will eat them, if properly introduced.

I have this from qualified sources.

So, I have decided to build an army of hedgehogs to help me against the Spanish Pest. I'm not joking this time. What I say here is true.

First I put a bowl of catfood (the dry sort) in the shed. I was told that hedgehogs love catfood.

It seems to work.

A few nights ago, I saw the first recruit out there.

Well, truth is I heard him first. Hedgehogs are not particularly elegant, in fact they're a tad clumbsy. Of course they don't have to care about moving around silently. They are on top of the food chain around here, and their prey moves too slow to escape them. So, you can always hear them scurrying about in the bushes, and I can hear them clattering about with the food bowl in the shed.

They're so cute.

As far as I can tell there are three of them, a couple of fairly big old males and a smaller, younger female. All adults.

No pictures, I'm afraid. Hedgehogs are nocturnal, and I'm afraid I'll ruin their visual faculties if I flash them. I wouldn't risk that just to bring you pictures. Made a cartoon in stead.

Next step will be to teach my recruits to eat the slugs. I've been adviced to kill a few slugs, slice them up and serve them to the hedgehogs in the bowl where they get the catfood. This way, I might be able to teach them, that Arion lusitanicus is in fact good food.

Now, that's what I call organic gardening.

Wish me and my recruits good luck!

  1. I_ArtMan says:

    you could fry them up in garlic and butter too. aren't they basically escargot without a shell? heheh

  2. Aqualion says:

    I've never been much of a escargot guy. When I eat I eat because I'm hungry, and you would need at least a bucketful of snails to get a full stomach.I usually 'take care' of the slugs by decapitating them when and where I find them. I'd use any shiv available. I once had a torn-off tin can top lying around, that I used for this purpose, and it proved very efficient. Problem is you can't leave the carcasses lying around, because it will attract others. They do eat their dead, and it seems they like that particular dish a lot.Devils, that's what they are! Red and with horns. I know a devil when I see one…

  3. derWandersmann says:

    Check with Adele or Words for anti-slug measures … I know that copper screening will keep them out, but you can't buy enough copper screening to put 'round your whole property.Can you?I'll keep checking, too, not that I don't approve of being on good terms with the 'edge'ogs; they're delightful.Later:FWIW, http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Rid-of-Garden-Slugs

  4. FlaRin says:

    I've found, in the past, that a perimeter of crushed egg shells around plants or plant beds to be very helpful, because the slugs don't like trying to get across all the sharp bits in their way. But that's what mucus is for I suppose. Here in NZ, Tiger slugs are very common…I used to hear them at night, in my first house here, eating the cat food. We used to feed the cats on plastic 'expanded polystyrene' trays, and at night, you'd hear this kinda scraping sound, as the slugs ate the cat food out in the kitchen. Spooky to go out there with the torch, and see a couple of these 6 inch things moving across the floor – surprisingly quickly too – they'd get away if you wasted any time…

  5. Aqualion says:

    @DWI'll check that link out later. It's time I checked out other MyOpera blogs for gardening stuff. Haven't gotten around to that yet.As said, a perimeter of coffee around the strawberries did the trick this year, and when we initiate the ktichen garden project next spring, I'll make sure to dig proper moats around the beds. I have a friend who says the garlic solution method (mentioned in the wiki-link) is quite efficient. Also the beer method. However, as he says, by using the garlic method in stead of the beer method, you won't risk accidentally drinking the solution before it comes to proper use.It makes sense. ;)@FlaYeah, they're in my catfood too. Not in the house, though, but in the shed, the same catfood as the hedgehogs. Perhaps, this will be enough 'inroduction', if you know what I mean. I don't think the 'Spaniards' can climb into the bowl, I use for catfood, though, but they take the bits that falls out of the bowl when the hogs (and occasional cat) eat. Lots of things going on at night in the shed. I've seen one of the cats (a small, black and very cute one) eating side by side with one of the hogs. Got me thinking, that animals aren't as wild and uncivilized after all. They too know the concept of sharing.In my book the concept of sharing equals civilization.Cats don't really like sharing, though, but I guess the food in the shed is considered random by the animals. It does not belong to any one individual. It's obviously not Xena's, though it is within her hunting preserve. I use the cheap stuff in that bowl, which she does not consider proper foot. In fact she doesn't like the place at all. It's too messy. Which is good. If she decided everything in that shed was hers, there wouldn't be a living thing in there. She's like that.Besides, as opposed to most other cats, she prefers sleeping at nights, not messing around outside.

  6. gdare says:

    Slugs (Ariolimax columbianus — Pacific banana slug) are common in BC but here, they are important part of ecosystem. Also we have black slugs (Arion ater).I haven't seen a lot of them but obviously, you've been invaded :left:

  7. qlue says:

    Some thoughts on nocturnal photography!An infrared lamp might provide sufficient light for an average digital camera without disturbing the hedgehogs.

  8. Aqualion says:

    We have to set up some sort of lighting in the carport and the aforementioned adjacent shed anyway. As it is we have to keep the headlights of the car on if we come home (or go out) after dark, to find the door to the backyard without falling on our faces. I have a variety of flashlights and pocket lamps for this purpose, but it would behoove us to get something permanent and stationary. Before winter comes with it's 18 hours of darkness per day.I wouldn't bother putting up an infrared lamp. Don't have the money for it either.But thanks for the tip anyway! :up:

  9. sanshan says:

    Originally posted by gdare:

    Slugs (Ariolimax columbianus — Pacific banana slug) are common in BC but here, they are important part of ecosystem. Also we have black slugs (Arion ater).

    They really are important and frankly I haven't seen many of them lately. Wonder why. If I see one on a trail I will move it because I know that most people will kill them because they seem disgusting. Actually, I think the black slug is a banana slug, but just overripe. :pAn aside: there is a myth that if you lick the underside of a banana slug your tongue will go numb and you'll have slight hallucinations. It's kind of a right of passage for young people to dare each other to do it.

  10. derWandersmann says:

    Originally posted by sanshan:

    I think the black slug is a banana slug, but just overripe.

    😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆

  11. Spaggyj says:

    Ah, it's a good idea.

  12. sanshan says:

    You laugh but it's true; they really are banana slugs! 🙂

  13. Aqualion says:

    This is the culprit:… and it's definitely, by all measures, an invasive species. To be killed and destroyed on sight.Meanwhile, I've discovered that the first thing I have to learn my hedgehog recruits is not to shit where they eat. Fortunately, their faeces is odorless, but it's nevertheless around, everywhere in the shed where I keep the catfood. I've been contemplating to transfer the feeding area to somewhere in the back garden in stead of in the shed, because I can't be arsed with sweeping and cleaning the floor every second day.On the other hand, this proves that my strategy about luring the hedgehogs to focus their interest within the perimeter of the shed and it's surroundings is successful. There's no way the basic group of three individuals can produce such an amount of excrements. Also, the bowls goes empty faster than before.Finally, I haven't found any Spaniards in the shed (or the surroundings) for almopst a week, and they'll normally hang around the food bowl. So, I guess everything is working according to my evil scheme.

  14. qlue says:

    Originally posted by Aqualion:

    So, I guess everything is working according to my evil scheme.


  15. FlaRin says:

    I reckon that outside is a good arena for the hedgehog grub – it will double-up as an easy to reach attraction for the slugs & snails – thus giving even more opportunity for Hedgehog Death to rain down upon them 🙂

  16. edwardpiercy says:

    Well when you end up with the overpopulation of hedgehogs due to eating all the slugs, I recommend dachshunds for countering those. I'd say more, but I'm feeling a bit sluggish this morning. :p

  17. Aqualion says:

    You mean, like in the Middle East where we supported all the rebels in the seventies and eighties, because the regimes were supported by the Russians (or the other way around), and now the rebels (or regimes) are turning against us, and we have to support the other rebels (or regimes) to keep in charge. And like those 'freedom fighters', the hedgehogs might actually get to look at me as some sort of main provider of training and weapons, giving no shit about my nobel cause… Hm… Could be a killer comic story, I guess… All animals in the garden fighting eachother – and I'm the one spending all the money…:cool:Look Ed, again I ended up condensing modern history into one paragraph!

  18. FlaRin says:

    This has the makings of a comic version of 1984 😀

  19. qlue says:

    Originally posted by FlaRin:

    a comic version of 1984

    I thought that was what modern politics was? :whistle::p

  20. edwardpiercy says:

    Originally posted by Aqualion:

    condensing modern history into one paragraph!

    😆 Well that's a good make of it!It's Koyaanisqatsi. Life out of balance. That's what happens when natural native ecosystems are invaded.

  21. FlaRin says:

    Sounds like the garden is doing a Powaqqatsi thing 🙂 Life in transformation (another good movie, too) 🙂

  22. Zaphira says:

    I'm not a garden owner, but I must admit that I find their name a bit overrated. Killer Snail? C'mon man. Like, Killer wasps. Killer whales I might understand, but… nah 😛

  23. derWandersmann says:

    Well, even for a wee, sma' plot o' plants (tomatoes, flowers, even chives or rhubarb) the local fauna can be killers, indeed. I couldn't really grow much besides marigolds in my old place; what the bunnies didn't kill, the bugs and viruses did. (Even the bunnies don't like marigolds.)

  24. garlingmatthews says:

    I don't think that one can have too many hedgehogs.

  25. FlaRin says:

    Especially wrapped in bacon – they are irresistible!!

  26. garlingmatthews says:

    And come with inbuilt toothpicks/suicide aids!

  27. FlaRin says:

    Beats cubes of cheese & pineapple on cocktails sticks, that's for sure :up:

  28. Aqualion says:

    Originally posted by FlaRin:

    Beats cubes of cheese & pineapple on cocktails sticks

    I'd prefer you wouldn't mention things like that again. I get some very bad flashbacks from the period 1986 – 1992 when someone mentions pineapple on cocktail sticks. This also goes for the mention of narrow pastel coloured neckties, and the Nissan Maxima automobile. Please…

  29. FlaRin says:

    😆 haha – one of my ex bosses had a Nissan Maxima as his company car – it was quite nice to drive actually – but the Toyota Camry – jeez that was awful!! Like driving a big pudding – I loathed that spineless family sized blancmange of a vehicle with a passion…Pastel coloured ties! EEEK!!!! What an acute and moment-in-time specific memory that is!And cubes of cheese & pineapple etc. on sticks – I have nightmares about stuff like that!! I will not mention that, or similar, again :up:

  30. qlue says:

    I see we're reminiscing about the Eighties! :whistle:

  31. Aqualion says:

    I've always considered the Toyota Corolla E80 as the archetypical car of the eighties, with the sharp edges and the rear wheel drive (the Corolla was as far as I know the last of the great FR-cars). Nothing is more eighties than a sharp edge profile family car…

  32. FlaRin says:

    Best Nissan I ever owned was the 2 door version of this :In NZ known as the Bluebird. 2 litre engine & went like a rocket. The gearbox eventually wore out – but it was front wheel drive & could spin the front wheels at the lights easily with that engine. That's also maybe why the gearbox wore out :rolleyes:I really liked that car :up:The next car was a Mazda 626 manual, and that was even better!!! Great car! 😀 But I unfortunately had a big crash & wrote it off. Which led me to the Subaru Forester – my joint favourite car of all time (with the manual 626).But the Camry has so far still been the worst car to drive (that had nothing actually wrong with it) that I've ever experienced.

  33. coisart says:

    Ooh.. This actually took me back to a time when I had a hedghog as a pet. :pthey are ravenous feeders of anything insect and for such a cute animal I was surprised at its eating habits..

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