One of the great things about Te Ara is its capacity to help solve practical problems, often by providing an essential first nugget of information.
For months I’ve watched as my plants were chewed by an army of small slugs. Seedlings were routinely destroyed. Out one day, fit and healthy; vanished the next, ground up and sucked into the tiny maw of a slug. Larger plants survived, but were left looking like paper doilies made by toddlers. One slug colony became fixated on petals, nibbling flowers back to their centre. Others liked to eat flower stems, and the bud or bloom would suddenly flop.
I got advice from others with the same problem: knee pads and a torch, crunched up eggshells, saucers of beer – none of it was effective. The little pale brown, grey and white slugs were hard to see, seemed able to slide under the egg shells and mostly didn’t drink. Bait then, starting with the old fashioned kind. I left out food scraps, including a fish head, and got nearly two dozen.
So, a garden dotted with fish heads… Looking for an alternative, I checked Te Ara’s entry on snails and slugs. It told me ‘In urban areas, you are more likely to find two introduced species – the common garden snail (Cantareus aspersus) and the grey field slug (Deroceras reticulatum)’.
Now armed with the name of my enemy: Deroceras reticulatum, I went web searching and found an answer on PestWeb, a site to help New Zealand farmers and agricultural professionals identify and deal with pests. The preferred control method for grey field slugs involved grazing 300 ewes or 120 cows, but there were other, more achievable options. A well-dug garden, soil reduced to a fine tilth, the weed compost moved, and my problem will probably be gone.
Maybe a lot of people use Te Ara this way, arming themselves with local information before setting off into the internet, or using it as a quick reference?
Statistics on some pages support this theory. A good example is our story about on spiders and other arachnids, which included the 23rd most popular page on Te Ara in the last year: ‘Poisonous spiders‘. The average time spent on that page was two minutes – long enough to decide whether that spider in the living room was a white tail or not – and more than two-thirds of those who looked at the page left Te Ara from it. Presumably they were off to either find out more information about their unwelcome visitor, or to escort it from their premises.