30 Shades of Slug

Thirty is about the number of slug varieties in the UK. And after a particularly damp summer in 2012 the news is we’re going to be inundated with slugs and snails in 2013. The National Trust says 2012 was an ‘apocalyptic’ summer for wildlife, except slugs. They really enjoyed the weather, to the extent that there’s lots more of them around.

Here’s a few interesting facts...

  • Only 5% of the slug population is above ground at any one time, the other 95% is below ground.
  • Slug eggs can lay dormant in the soil for years, hatching when conditions are right.
  • Since they’re hermaphrodite, each slug produces eggs,
  • A slug can live for up to six years.
  • So long as the temperature is above 5ยบC, the slug is active.
  • One slug has the potential to produce 90,000 grandchildren.
  • The average UK garden has a population of 20,000 slugs.

So what’s the best way to beat the little devils (well, they do have two horns coming out of their heads)?

Slug pellets are not only environmentally unfriendly, killing insects, earthworms, birds and animals such as hedgehogs, but they’re a danger to young children and pets as well. And they’re pretty ineffective, killing no more than 10% of the slug population.

Removal ‘by hand’ is one of the most effective ways of getting rid of your slug population. Doesn’t mean literally by hand; use a garden trowel and plastic bag. Patrol on a damp  evening when dark and you’ll catch loads and loads and loads!

Keep things tidy by reducing the sites slugs can hide during the day. Remove undergrowth and rubbish and restrict sites to hide under to those you’ve set up as slug shelters.

Slug shelters sound a bit silly, but providing the ideal home so you know exactly where to find them means you can also gather them up and get rid of them. Slugs need to keep moist or they’ll die, so particularly during the hottest part of the day they’re going to be holed up where it’s cool and damp. Yes, you can go and look for such places, but why have a good tidy up and only leave strategically placed hiding places of your own? How about leaving pieces of damp carpet, or place old planks between rows of plants. Stones, bricks, or upturned seed trays will do the trick as well.

Slug barriers can help protect a single plant or a small group of plants. For the former use a large plastic fizzy drink bottle with the base cut out, placed over the growing plant. For larger areas use grit, sawdust or ash to create a barrier surrounding the plants. Copper tape is also available, the slug’s slime causing a chemical reaction that delivers an electric shock. Of course, check there are no slugs inside the barrier!

Beer traps are one of the more popular home made deterrents, although again not all that effective. They may be useful to protect small groups of plants, but on a large area it’s not feasible to have at least one every square metre. Just half bury a glass jar or smooth plastic container in the soil so it’s a least one inch above ground level (to avoid accidentally catching beneficial creatures as well) and half fill with beer. It’s a good idea to rest something loosely on top as well to keep rain out. Slugs find the smell irresistible and drown in the brew, hopefully in a happy daze. Just make sure you empty the jar on a daily basis; leave for a few days and the smell is unforgettable!

If all else fails, why not cook and eat them? For the recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You might also like...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...