The Cool House: Lousy, Holey Hostas

Friday, July 24, 2009

Lousy, Holey Hostas


Last year the Hostas were shredded by a monster hailstorm, this year it looked like slugs had got to them. Holes everywhere, neighbours out with pet-friendly snail bait, and the conditions this year have been ideal for an infestation: rainy, damp, humid weather for months. The wet weather is what makes gardening in the UK so challenging and rewarding but it's not something I've come to expect from New York's Long Island.

Having grown up a warrior in the never-ending fight against the pests I was well prepared to find lots of the slimy creatures and to deal with them. My father dug cups of beer into the ground and sprinkled salt on those that slunk lazily down the paths leaving their silvery trails behind. As a pre-schooler I was encouraged to hunt for slugs and proudly carried an old beach bucket half filled with beer and salt to drop them in. (I believe there was a reward for most slugs captured). I was ready to do battle! I searched and searched for slugs and snails, turning up leaves by day, at night peering under them by flashlight. But I found no sign.


There were plenty of holes in the leaves, even my Basil had been attacked. But no sign of slugs. Which is when a lightbulb went off in my head.


Investigation around the yard showed me that only the common green Hostas had been eaten; the giant species and the variegated varieties had been ignored. Furthermore the basil is in a huge container 2' off the ground. If it were a slug chewing on my favourite salad herb he would either have had to parachute in, master the art of trampolining without the necessary equipment, or he would have left a trail. I checked: No trail.


I went back and looked a little closer at the holey leaves. And there they were. Everywhere.


The culprits: Woodlice on every leaf, on the ground, under my plants. Not surprising really as they like moisture even more than slugs do. It's still a mystery why they are eating only the less interesting Hostas but the most pressing question was what to do about them. According to those in the know they prefer dead material to live plants so I could leave decaying plant material about for them to gnaw on, although this would probably look worse than the half-eaten Hostas. The other ingenious suggestion I read about here: Drinking straws. This I can do, after all it's the perfect solution for a cocktail drinker. Let the Woodlice War commence!

9 comments:

Charlie said...

I was reading the post with one I closed, fearful of what I might see next. I can assure you that woodlice was not what I expected. I have never heard of woodlice eating plants sometime trees but not plants. Is it common for them to eat plants? My husband(the gardner in the family)has been out in the middle of the night trying to find the culprit that's attacking his herb garden. I'll have to show him your post and the link. Sorry about the damage they caused but I wish I could see the war of the straws commence.

Have a great weekend!

modernemama said...

I'll be posting pics soon...
All these people scuttling around the plants in the dark - we gardeners are strange, obsessed folk!
The basil is the only herb that's been attacked so far in my yard although I've heard they like tomatoes, too.

Fifi Flowers said...

I have holes in many of my leafy plants but I NEVER find the little bugger... hmmmm...
ENJOY your weekend!
Fifi

Nadine @ BDG said...

thank you for the post-- my basil and my hostas look exactly the same as yours. Can we blame it on the excessive spring rain? I'm going to check out the straw solution, though I wish it included ordering in some lady bugs.

Renovation Therapy said...

All this rain, my garden is beyond depressing. I refuse to spend any more cash on it this year.

Kathleen said...

Well, be glad they aren't munching on the more exotic sorts of hostas in the garden. That would be worse.

What about food-grade diatomaceous earth? Supposedly, it slices into the insects' bodies and causes them death.

Kathleen said...

Now that I've read the article, I believe you ought to acquire a herd of toads to eat the woodlice.

modernemama said...

Kathleen I believe you have the answer (not the insect slicing earth - frankly if it does that to insects I won't trust it not to do the same to me, the pups and the kitties - but the toads.
Normally we have hundreds of them in every size, including a couple of mega ones that do laps in the pool, but this year we have seen very few. Do we have a toad shortage, I wonder?

le banc moussu said...

Same problem with mine in north France. They maybe own a lowcost company and travel worlwide.
A bientôt christian