How to help prevent the spread of rat lungworm disease

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Tests by the University of Hawaii found infected slugs and snails on every island in Hawaii except Lanai.

Dr. Kenton Kramer, an associate professor at JAPSOM and a member of the Governor’s Joint Task Force on Rat Lungworm Disease said this is a statewide problem even though the majority of the cases were traced back to Hawaii island.

There are ways you can prevent the spread of the disease.

Joshua Silva, an assistant extension agent for the University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources said the key is locating the culprits.

“It’s all about finding where they like to hide and identifying their slime and their droppings,” Silva said. Slugs they like two things like moisture and they like darkness o looking underneath hiding spots so if you have a pile of bricks or some old looking under there and being able to find slugs there.”

Silva said the wet weather brings more slugs out. 

“With the recent rain you can expect slug populations to be higher.”

Once you know the slugs are there, Silva suggests several things.

“You use things like these barriers. Here I have copper tape, which tend to deter or repel slugs from entering your garden area,” Silva explained. “Typically you would put this on the edges or if you’re growing on a raised bed you would put this on the legs.”

I’m told you should make the barrier four to five inches thick to prevent the snail from crossing it. The copper should be changed monthly. 

“The other option is to physically inspect it and remove them by hand,” Silva said. “If you’re working with slugs, make sure to put on gloves and use your rings and put them in a slug jug.”

Another way to get rid of the buggers is to use bait. 

“Mainly, you have an active ingredient called metaldyhyde which is very effective but slightly toxic so it’s not safe to use if you have children or pets in your garden area. In those cases you may want to use products that have iron phosphate or ferric EDT as their active ingredient. They tend to be much safer and longer lasting especially in wetter conditions,” according to Silva.

Inspecting your growing area is important, but Silva said you also have to remember to thoroughly scan and wash every fruit and vegetable before you eat it.

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