This work may give Americans a new way to combat slugs, which destroy corn, soybeans, and other key food crops every spring and fall across the Midwest.
Parwinder Grewal, professor of entomology at Ohio State University, and his colleagues are studying tiny parasitic worms native to Europe and parts of South America. The worms feed on snails and slugs, and laboratory-grown worms are sold commercially for slug control in Europe today.
In a recent issue of the journal Biological Control, the Ohio State researchers reported that the European worms kill American slugs just as well as the most popular slug poison, metaldehyde.
"Sure, poison kills slugs very well," Grewal said, "but it can harm pets and other animals, or contaminate crops and ground water if not used correctly," Grewal said. "We want to find something safer, something useful to farmers and gardeners alike."
In a greenhouse, the researchers exposed one population of typical American slugs to metaldehyde, and another to the worms. The worms were supplied by the UK biotech company MicroBio Group Ltd., which also partially funded this study.
Each population of slugs had access to its own set of leafy Hosta plants for food.'"/>