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Slaters are also known as woodlice,sowbugs and pill bugs. They arecrustaceans and are related to thenormally aquatic or marine crabs,lobsters and prawns but are adaptedto living on land. They still need dampconditions, and will die if exposed toopen and dry situations. Because of this,they tend to be active at night when therisk of dehydration is low.The species of slaters found commonlyin Australian gardens are introducedfrom other parts of the world.Female slaters keep their eggs in apouch until the young hatch. Hatchlingsthen leave the parent and arecompletely independent. Slaters growthrough a series of moults in which theouter rigid skeleton is shed, allowing growth to the nextlarger and ﬁnally adult stage. During moulting the slateris very vulnerable and must ﬁnd shelter.Mulch, compost and regular watering in gardens favoursthe development of dense slater populations as theyfeed mainly on decaying organic matter. They help thebreakdown of organic matter and can be beneﬁcial tothe garden at low population densities. At high densities,they can damage new seedlings and ripe fruit, such asstrawberries in contact with the ground. Orchid growersreport slaters feeding on the roots and damaging thegrowing tips of plants.
Where slaters are considered pests, try to make thegarden less favourable to them. Reduce compost tothe minimum and disturb it frequently by raking in themiddle of hot, dry days. Slaters shelter under objectsin contact with the ground. Reduce the amount ofharbourages by removing empty pots and stacks oftimber, bricks and rocks.
Treat areas supporting high slater populations with snailbaits containing methiocarb (Baysol
Snail and SlugPellets) or iron EDTA (Multiguard Multicrop Snail andSlug Killer).
Replaces Gardennote 3/94
Slaters and their control
By Peter Davis, Marc Widmer and Tara Craven, Entomology Branch, Department of Agriculture and Food,South Perth
Alternatively, several brands of lawn granular insect-icides are registered for the control of slaters. Ask theretailer which ones are appropriate.
Be careful when applying baits to avoid the accidentalpoisoning of children and pets. Read the label and followthe directions.
Figure 2. Mulch and compost encourage slaters Figure 1. Slaters are scavengers that feed on decaying organic matter