By Jasmine Shaw / UAF Cooperative Extension Service, Sitka District Office
The slugs are a relatively recent arrival in Alaska, but have spread quickly in Sitka’s cool, wet environment. Their impact in Alaska is still being studied, but they’re a garden and agricultural pest elsewhere. Since 2011, Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H Club has been supported by a partnership between the Sitka Conservation Society, a local environmental nonprofit, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service to engage youth ages 5-18 in place-based, experiential learning unique to the Tongass National Forest. This year, the two organizations collaborated to spearhead an invasive European slug collection and awareness campaign in the community.
First, the youth met via Zoom with an entomologist in Scotland, where the slugs are native. Then they set out to see which team could collect the most slugs. More than 600 invasive slugs were collected and disposed of over two days. Slug samples also were collected and sent to the Integrated Pest Management Program team in Anchorage for genetic analysis and a larger regionwide investigation into the species. They have a goal of collecting 1,000 slugs this summer and hope to get the whole community involved.