‘Definitely aggressive pests’ expand range across southern Alaska

Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 2:06 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Though most Alaskans — gardeners in particular — are used to seeing slugs, there is a more recent addition to the Alaska slug population that the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension is watching.

“This is a wet climate. There’s a really large slug population in the forest,” said Joey Slowik, integrated pest management technician with the Matanuska Experimental Farm.

Alaska has native and non-native slugs. The banana slug in southeast Alaska is considered native to the state. The leopard slug is an introduced species but doesn’t impact gardens as much. The type of slug most gardeners are familiar with is the gray garden slug.

“The gray garden slug is one of these animals we consider anthropogenic,” Slowik said. “It just follows people. It’s everywhere people are, probably came in in nursery stock eons and eons ago.”

The latest concern is the European black slug. These slugs are deep black, about two to three inches long.

“The European black slug we think was introduced to Cordova maybe 30 years ago and it’s subsequently spread all throughout Southeast,” Slowik said. “It’s spreading essentially across Southcentral. We’ve gotten reports of it in the last couple years as far over as King Salmon, onto the Peninsula, so it’s actively spreading.”

Slowik says in Prince William Sound they are finding it in new places every year.

Slugs get transported easily. They hide well in cracks and crevices and their eggs are stable and dormant. Slowik says they think the European black slug probably came to Alaska on a boat.

“They lay an egg on a boat and the boat gets ferried up and somebody moves into Ketchikan or Cordova or wherever,” Slowik said. “The eggs are there, they hatch and you have slugs. They get transported pretty easily too just because they’re obscured. Juvenile slugs are pretty tiny and we just don’t see them.”

Though these slugs are all over Prince William Sound and Southeast, they are being found in limited numbers in Anchorage and Girdwood.

“We know they are occurring occasionally in Anchorage, but we’re not seeing really large populations yet in Anchorage,” Slowik said. “They are in Girdwood as well, but again, we’re not seeing nearly as large a population as we’re seeing in Prince William Sound.”

Slowik says anyone bringing a boat from Prince William Sound, including Whittier, should check the boat carefully for slugs to make sure the slugs aren’t being brought into Anchorage.

“They are very definitely aggressive pests,” Slowik said. “We’d like to keep populations as low as possible.”

If you see the European black slug, the UAF Cooperative Extension would like to know about it. You can report sitings at their Pest Reporting website.

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