/ Home & Energy

Is it possible to hold back the slugs?

Slugs – a gardener’s worst enemy. There are a number of methods out there to stop them in their tracks, be it environmentally friendly or chemical, but have you ever found one that does the trick?

Ask any gardener what their worst pest is and slugs and snails will feature high on the list. Three quarters of Which? Gardening members told us that they’re a real problem.

The tell-tale slime trails across your decimated plants, the stump-like remains of your seedlings and the gaping holes in your hosta leaves all show that slugs and snails have been busy eating your carefully tended garden. The damage is enough to make you hop round the garden in fury.

Barriers to protect your crops

In an attempt to get rid of slugs and snails gardeners use barriers, pellets and nematodes with abandon. But is it time to throw in the towel and make peace with these pests?

Our recent tests showed that environmentally friendly barrier methods are not much better than leaving your plants unprotected, especially when you factor in the faff of installing the barriers.

We tested plastic barriers with sharp teeth that were supposed to deter snail, but the pests simply hurdled the obstacle by arching their bodies. Granules that were supposed to be too sharp to crawl over became soggy and sticky when watered. Copper is another deterrent but the tape we used was breached within days.

Some barriers showed promise, such as wool pellets that created a hairy mat, or a gel that made a slug turn through 180 degrees and head off in the opposite direction, but even these failed to protect our seedlings for long.

Home-made methods, such as egg shells, beer traps or coffee granules may be cheap alternatives, but our poll told us most members have had poor results. Ducks and geese were the best performers, although these have to take their place in the food chain and are often fall prey to foxes.

Biological and chemical controls

Then there’s Nematodes which seem to work well on slugs, but not on snails. These tiny parasitic worms are watered onto the soil and work their way into slugs where they infect them with a lethal fungus. But they’re a nuisance to buy and use as they have to be ordered online and then kept in the fridge until the weather and soil temperatures are right.

The problems with pellets containing metaldehyde are well known, such as causing harm to birds and pets if eaten in large quantities. It’s also known to pollute water when used in high doses in agriculture. Some experts even predict it may be banned in the UK if the problem is not controlled.

Ferric-phosphate pellets are certified as organic, but some research suggests that it may cause problems for earthworms and alter the chemical balance of the soil.

So it looks as though we have three choices: using remedies that may be less than environmentally friendly, carrying out night-time raids with a torch and bin bag or learn to live with slugs and snails. Which method do you use? Or do you have a secret tip that we’d all love to to know?

Comments
Profile photo of jonny41
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The best solution to slugs and snails in my experience has been to play host to a hedgehog. If your garden has a few sheltered areas it will find somewhere to sleep in very cold spells. Look after it during warm spells during winter when it is likely to forage for food: put out some cat food. Don’t discourage foxes – they eat slugs too!

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Brian Cox says:
7 March 2015

Looking after hedgehogs is commendable anyway – they are in serious decline – but please make sure that the cat food doesn’t contain fish because it’s not good for their tums. Actually, I’ve heard that slugs and snails are not at the top of their wishlist, but I’ll tell you what – they adore the mealworms which we put out for the birds.

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Margaret says:
8 March 2015

The problem with putting out cat food is that the surrounding cats are liable to gobble it 1st. Apparently hedgehogs love milk but I have heard it is harmful to them. I once gathered snails and dropped them into a deep container 1/4 filled with water. They all died but it needs emptying often or it absolutely stinks

Profile photo of bbookham
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I would love a resident hedgehog but I have not seen one for years – are they in decline?

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Falkenna says:
8 March 2015

When I dropped snails into a deep container of water, they all crawled out long before they died! But I found that the beer cups work very well – except for the same problems you mention of frequent emptying and a horrific stink.

Profile photo of portlandbill
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Dropping slugs into a pale of water is fine, so long as you introduce SALT . This will disolve the slugs – bit messy I admit, but they dont get out. I used a litter picker device (two years ago over a few days we collected some two hundred slugs using this method and some of the slugs were huge).

Profile photo of Andrew Collins
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It appears so, bbookham…I do hope they make a swift return soon:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/jan/29/hedgehog-population-dramatic-decline

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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Thats good news on the fox front as we have quite a few travel through our garden. Overall though are preferred method is hunting with sharp pointy sticks rather than chemicals. Accepting that there is an acceptable damage rate is also helpful in being serene about the situation.

Profile photo of wavechange
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In the previous Conversation about slugs it was suggested that ferric phosphate was safe, and I had my doubts at the time. Most chemicals are not good at distinguishing between harmful and beneficial species. I’m glad that we have a biological control agent for slugs. One of the problems of biological control is that it can be too specific, which is why it works with slugs but not with snails. I would rather pick up snails than slugs, so I will give it a go.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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When I was liitle our next door neighbour used to patrol his garden and despatched slugs with a pair of scissors. Others used to sprinkle them with table salt. I confess to protecting new seedlings planed in the garden with a minimum of slug pellets but, once established, give the slugs and snails (on chalk we have both) a free reign. Put enough plants in and you can get your fair share. Same with pigeons eating the peas and broad beans – share and share alike.

I also try to make up for my wicked ways by feeding the birds throughout the winter.

Profile photo of Andrew Collins
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Malcolm – I think my nan still uses the scissors technique! I just used to pick the snails/slugs up and move them to another place in the garden, never thinking they’d squirm back to the same vegetable patch…

Profile photo of Alex Toplis
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In the winter months I always go on slug patrol before I go to bed. I venture out into the dark with a torch and try to remove as many as I can. Problem is I can’t kill them, I just move them further away but they always make it back. My plants are no more 🙁

Profile photo of malcolm r
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If slugs and snails only come out at night, perhaps you could stick solar-powered LED lights near vulnerable produce? Or might that create a slug rave – they might come from miles around?

Profile photo of Andrew Collins
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A slug rave… O_O I’ve just pictured slugs with glow sticks and neon paint… Ah look, there’s actual neon sea slugs 😮 :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nembrotha_kubaryana

Profile photo of malcolm r
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If these were on the loose in your garden, Andrew, I’d stay off the night patrols!

Thrushes like snails and possibly slugs. Perhaps put effigies of these around the garden as scareslugs? On the other hand we could just come to an amicable agreement as I do with bullfinches that feast on the buds on my cherry tree – give them bird seed so they like me and maybe the cherry tree will have enough blossom left to cheer up a few Spring days soon.

Profile photo of Andrew Collins
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They look harmless and slightly “pet-worthy”..Malcolm – Haha. Great tips, so far, from yourself and wavechange 🙂

Profile photo of wavechange
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I have manually removed snails and slugs, although only when there are large ones on the prowl. It’s all the little sluglets that are capable of climbing plants that are discouraging. They can be hidden and present in much larger numbers that the bigger ones.

Maybe beer traps are the way forward for environmentally safe slug control. They did work for my father.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Perhaps it is worth looking at what is happening in the commercial world, which has traditionally used methiocarb and metaldehyde for slug control. Methiocarb is to be withdrawn in the EU, and is probably no longer on sale. Methiocarb is a bigger problem than metaldehyde, one reason being that it is an insecticide and kills beneficial insects.

The Environment Agency is coordinating action with farmers and water companies to protect our rivers and drinking water supply from agricultural chemicals including metaldehyde slug pellets.

I would like to see metaldehyde slug pellets removed from garden centres. As mentioned above, there are ways of dealing with slugs in gardens, including accepting that some produce with be lost.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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Lot of good sense in this collection of tips. I am a great fan of gravel as a mulch rather than plant material both because it is less friendly to slugs and because it dries and warms up more quickly in
burning sunshine!

“Control

Cultural controls: Mulch provides an ideal slug habitat so mulch lightly around plants that are attractive to slugs.
Water only in the morning so that the ground will dry by evening when slugs are naturally active.
Prune lower leaves or stake large plants to reduce potential hiding places for slugs and allow better air circulation which helps keep the soil surface drier
Trapping: Beer traps can be used early in the season, when the slugs’ favoured foods are more scarce, as slugs are attracted to the smell of beer. Such traps have various designs, but essentially the slug will venture into a half buried jar, or cut away plastic bottle, containing a small amount of beer (not stout or lager), succumb to the fumes and drown.
Physical removal: Night time patrols for hand collection can be useful. These can be augmented by regularly setting out traps such as boards, shingles, overturned flower pots, or grapefruit halves for slugs to hide under.
Barriers: Slugs have an aversion to copper. Copper pipe can be used and commercial slug rings are available. A 15cm length of plastic pipe with copper foil tape around it can be used to protect individual plants.
Repellents: Grapefruit and other citrus rinds, used coffee grounds, eggshells, and sharp sand can be used in gardens around plants to repel slugs.
They also find dry surfaces difficult to cross since they must extrude a wet slime coat in order to move and this can eventually lead to dehydration, so leave cleared borders or walkways around plants.
Pesticides: Commercial slug pellets containing metaldehyde or methiocarb are available, but are not approved for organic gardening as they can poison creatures at a later stage of the food chain.
Aluminium sulfate can also be used; its proponents claim that it is less toxic to the environment.
Salt will kill slugs, but is also poisonous to plants.
Organic pesticides: Diatomaceous earth is a natural abrasive that can cause small cuts or scratches on slugs, causing them to dehydrate.
Bait pellets containing iron phosphate are also used for this purpose.
The mixture of 50% water with 50% ammonia will kill slugs instantly. This can be applied using a hand spray bottle early in the morning or during a warm rain.
Alternate hosts: Comfrey can be used as a decoy by placing the leaves around plants to protect them. The slugs will eat the comfrey and leave the protected plant alone. This is a honeypot approach, and rarely effective as it merely increases slug populations in the longer term unless comfrey is used as a trap crop and the slugs are controlled on it.
Predators and parasites: Frogs, toads, snakes, ground beetles, ducks, pigs, birds.
Biocontrols (microscopic): A recent development in the control of slugs is the introduction of ‘Nemaslug’, a microscopic nematode (Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita) that will seek out and parasitize slugs, reproduce inside them and kill them. The nematode is applied by watering onto moist soil, and gives protection for up to six weeks, though is mainly effective with small and young slugs under the soil surface. The nematode is only effective in warm, moist conditions, above about 20°C.”
Wikibooks

Member
Rob Elmour says:
7 March 2015

I’ve used the nematodes. Not quite sure where Wikibooks got that figure of 20°C from. The ones I’ve used work once the temperature goes over about 5°C, which roughly matches the temperature when slugs become properly active.

They are spectacularly effective and apparently completely harmless to other species (even snails, unfortunately) They come as a kind of damp powder which is easy to mix with water and apply using a watering can, or you can use or a gizmo attached to the end of a hosepipe. However, an application only lasts a couple of months (I suppose when all the slugs are gone, the nematodes starve), they are expensive (about 12 quid to treat my garden) and they have no effect on slug eggs. Since slug eggs can lay dormant in the soil for over a year, you should really keep reapplying to clobber the little beggars as they emerge, before they have a chance to lay more eggs.

Profile photo of John Ward
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When I saw the headline for this Topic, I thought it was going to be about the general election, but actually it’s rather more fascinating than that.

We get a lot of slugs and snails. The birds seem to do a good job with the snails – there are broken shells all over the garden, especially near any ornamental stones which the birds use as an anvil on which to smash the shells. But the slugs have resisted all proprietary agents; I have been wondering if there is some form of birth control that I could administer [I can’t bring myself to behead them so I usually pick them up and take them into the woods nearby].

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Vic says:
7 March 2015

It is also about the general election.
Most politicians remind me of slugs and snails.
The green party want human rights for slugs and snails.

Profile photo of John Ward
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I’m already bored rigid by the general election – it is just like a slow race between slugs and snails none of which know what they’re “running” for and are probably hoping they won’t win it. I’m just hoping the Monster Raving Loony Party steps into the breach again and livens things up a bit. Vote Snail – they do more for the homeless.

I can feel the hairs on the back of my neck sticking up as my collar is about to be felt for offending the Off-Topic Regulator.

Member
len says:
4 March 2015

Work in farming
for 30 yrs when younger,
at a market garden and fruit farm,
and in all that time,
we never solved this slug prob,
When growing cabbages, lettuces, broad beans, runner beans peas ,
rose’s dailies’ iris’s, and so on
in fact anything young green and edible,
We use to farm over 600 hundred acres ,
Over night in warm wet weather you could walk down to a field of newly planted cabbages and watch them disappear in a matter of 6 hours 250k of new cabbage plants,
which had just taken 72 hours of sitting on a planter on the back of tractor and hand planting seeding every 8 inches and having 5 acres to plant.
.Then a later in week going to check cabbage plants,
and see fields of little green sticks and not a leaf left on over half of 5 acres of plants ,
: ¬{ 1971 spring was a bad year its was warm and rained a lot we got a lot of veg in early but payed dearly with slugs and snails caterpillars fungi ,
If we keep banning pesticide’s and fungicides and slug pellets /liquids,
and go with organics in food production on a global scale,
3/5ths of the world people will starve to death in a decade,
and most of them will be in the northern hemisphere ,
as it is,
No one have given a thought to how we grow food to support 11billion humans in 2050 and onwards ,
and when oil runs out,
Any changes we make to food production now,
You can be kind to slugs or what ever,
because in end,
it will be your great grand children that will pay for that kindness,
and bless you,
and hunt among the rubbish and rubble that was the world looking for a few slugs to eat,
or snails,
None so blind as those that do not want to see ,

Profile photo of wavechange
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Len – I agree that organic farming is not a solution for feeding the world. The losses of crops would be too high.

The problem is that some of the chemicals used in agriculture are simply not safe to use. Several neonicotinoids have been banned for two years, except for certain uses, in the hope of tackling the decline in bee numbers, though neonicotinoids are probably only partly to blame.

We urgently need to develop biological control agents that can replace or cut down the use of chemical pesticides. Typically they cost more, they are more difficult to store and more difficult to use, but at least they are safe. You are probably familiar with Btk and other safe pesticides.

In this Conversation we are discussing how to deal with slugs and snails in our gardens, which is rather different from large scale food production.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Perhaps we are approaching this from the wrong angle – maybe we should embrace slugs for our benefit by eating them (as some do snails). So harvest your garden pests for food – here’s a recipe I found for a stir fry http://forums.gardenweb.com/discussions/1886129/stir-fried-garden-slugs-on-angel-hair-pasta-recipe. Just don’t invite me round, please 🙁 Anyone got any recipes?

Profile photo of Andrew Collins
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Stir fried slugs?! That sounds disgusting… Malcolm, this suggestion has reminded me of Patrick’s conversation about eating insects…

https://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/eating-insects-would-you-eat-edible-bugs/

Profile photo of wavechange
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You beat me to it Andrew. I wanted to tell you about the strangest Conversation that we have seen so far. I don’t fancy eating slugs any more than I would want to eat insects. I would rather turn vegetarian, assuming the slugs have not eaten all the vegetables.

Maybe Malcolm could arrange an M&S dine-in deal featuring slugs for two, plus a dessert of your choice.

And humans eating slugs would be a good example of biological control, though not one I’m keen to promote.

Profile photo of Andrew Collins
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Haha, I remember watching the video some years ago and thought it was rather disgusting – I can’t believe Patrick and the team actually ate those insects!

I’m with you wavechange – I’d rather be a veggie than eat slugs… x_x

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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I can’t believe how much I paid for them…

Profile photo of wavechange
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Has anyone encountered the Spanish slug, sometimes reported to grow up to 150mm in length? Wikipedia gives a more modest figure of 80-120mm.

Profile photo of John Ward
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We haven’t come across this specimen yet but we keep the castanets handy just in case.

Profile photo of Beryl
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Stuff of nightmares Wavechange – why have I come over all nauseous? Have definitely gone off Patrick since watching the video!

Reverting back to my kindergarten days and nursery rhymes, where did the saying slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails, that’s what little boys are made of, whereas little girls were made of much more appetising stuff like sugar and spice and all things nice? I must confess to preferring the latter for my eating habits but, on second thoughts – no offence meant chaps – the same definitely wouldn’t apply to big boys I hope!!!

Profile photo of wavechange
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Don’t read the comments on Patrick’s video unless you want to learn about Casu marzu cheese, Beryl. 🙁 🙁 🙁

I think that Len’s post is a bit extreme, but he has a very important point about how dependent we are on pesticides and insecticides. We can probably cope in our gardens but feeding the world is another matter.

Profile photo of Andrew Collins
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I felt slightly nauseous too, Beryl…

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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You’re all wimps 😉

Profile photo of portlandbill
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Yes I came across the Spanish slug variety about two years ago . Huge blighters they were and they ate their fellow slugs when they caught up with them. Dropping them in a bucket salt water terminated their activities in my garden

Profile photo of malcolm r
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The Charolais of slugs appears to be Limax cinereoniger at 200mm long – in most of Europe and on the loose in UK. Looks a bit like a walrus. Sounds like a bit of selective breeding could make for a new Sunday joint.

Parasites are its enemy (and probably ours if we eat it). I’ll keep an eye out for it in my garden, but its main habitat is woodlands and parks.

I can only sympathise with Len. I’ve lost carefully-nurtured plants to an overnight incursion of slugs and snails, brassicas to cabbage white caterpillars as well as gooseberry leaves to the sawfly caterpillar. But we do share this planet and need to find ways to live and let live.

Profile photo of wavechange
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The parasites are the nematode worms mentioned in Adele’s introduction. Harmful for slugs but probably little else.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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“Okay, why cook them? People do eat slugs raw on a dare, and the Indians used live slugs to numb gums, tongues and toothache. These common little creatures aren’t too bad unto themselves, but some of the land crawlers especially in warmer areas have parasites, one of which they can get from rat feces. That parasite, normally infecting a rat’s lung, goes from your stomach to your brain, crawling there over time — yes, crawling there — and causes your brain to swell.”

I’m steering clear of them – and inspecting my salad lettuce very carefully before I chew it. 😀

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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Note to self: don’t eat slugs raw.

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Question: Does Casu Marzu Cheese really contain live insect larvae?

Oh Dio mio!!!

Profile photo of Andrew Collins
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I believe so Beryl…live maggots crawling about in it…Yuck!

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Wikipedia says “Derived from Pecorino, casu marzu goes beyond typical fermentation to a stage most would consider decomposition, brought about by the digestive action of the larvae of the cheese fly Piophila casei. These larvae are deliberately introduced to the cheese, promoting an advanced level of fermentation and breaking down of the cheese’s fats. The texture of the cheese becomes very soft, with some liquid (called lagrima, from Sardinian language for “tear”) seeping out. The larvae themselves appear as translucent white worms, about 8 mm (0.3 in) long. When disturbed, the larvae can launch themselves for distances up to 15 cm (6 in).”

Apparently it tastes strongly of ammonia and the taste can last for hours (Brie has a mild ammonia smell, doesn’t it).

It makes slugs seem positively palatable.

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Apart from putting us off our tea, this is a bit reminiscent of a scene in “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” where snack vendors were going round the arena offering Ocelots’ Nipples and other tasty titbits to the excited throng.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Maybe we should get back to how we can cope with slugs. Has anyone tried the biological control approach using nematodes, as mentioned by Adele in her introduction.

Profile photo of Beryl
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There is some useful info on the Royal Horticultural Society’s Website re slugs and nematode treatment and quite a long list of supposedly slug repellent plants, although they still enjoy eating the young shoots on my hydrangea petiolaris @rhs.org – Slugs.

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Been members for years.

Great organisation with an excellent robust Constitution. Its amusing that Jekka McVicar because of a Trustee role reported £37.00 for herbs to Hyde Hall. Mind you all the RHS Trustess do.

And also very far sighted in that the life membership is 100 years from joining or death. An dyou cannot join until you are 18.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Thanks Beryl. I looked at the RHS site at the start of this discussion and they list half a dozen suppliers of nematodes.

Having now looked at one commercial product – ‘Nemaslug’ – I have been able to confirm that the nematodes have to be ordered when needed. They will keep for up to four weeks in the fridge. Keen though I am on biological control, I’m not keeping nematodes in my fridge. Maybe if a local garden centre starts stocking them I will give them a go at my slugs.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Here’s a pretty comprehensive list of measures for trying to control slugs.
http://www.slugoff.co.uk/information/list
Since they lay up to a hundred eggs several times a year I wonder whether nematodes really have any chance – particularly in a garden of any size. Just spend the money on more plants instead?And slugs have a role in devouring decomposing garden vegetation, in providing food for birds, and for each other. Cannibal slugs may be another way forward – but then you have to control them. Banging your head against a brick wall?

Profile photo of wavechange
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I now know what slug eggs look like and it would probably help to destroy these, either by standing on them or with a small amount of slug killer. I will mount a slug attack this year.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Good luck with you egg hunt. They lay them under stones, pots and so on as well as in holes in the ground.
Snail caviar is, I believe, maketted. So rather than stamping on your slugs eggs maybe you could open a delicatessen?

Profile photo of wavechange
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I have always wondered what the eggs were when I have seen them in the past. Definitely ghastlypods. 🙂

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If you go out armed with garden hoe and turn the soil over to expose the slug eggs, there are plenty of hungry nesting birds in the garden at this time of the year to oblige. It may not clear all of them but may reduce their number a little.

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Lesley B says:
7 March 2015

I consider slugs to be quite intelligent and very discerning, they always go for the plants and seedlings I have nurtured,usually the most expensive ones, but all the weeds seem to flourish without a sign of damage, I then think they’re sitting back watching me with my aching back and burning knees, spending hours weeding borders and clearing a clear path for them straight back to what plants I have left. I get the feeling there’s a sluggish plan afoot!

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Jeoffry says:
7 March 2015

Armed with a plastic bucket containing warm highly salted water and a dedicated fish slice, I roam the patio and paths in the dark. Forty a night is a good haul. Yes, I know killing is nasty but the deaths are instantaneous.
I feed the birds,- – and I stopped growing hostas.

Member
Roger Oakes says:
7 March 2015

I find the most effective barrier is a line, about 4 inches wide, of soot from sweeping the chimney. THe depth is just enough to ensure a colmplete covering of the soil. However, I am concious that this could have some detremental effect on the soil. When I run out of soot I have used builders lime in a similar way. As I would wish to lime the vegetable patch in accordance with some sort rotation anyway I see little disadvantage. Another barrier is sifted ash from my wood burning stove. As wood ash is said to have some plant nutrition benefits it is not likely to be harmful. It is advisable to use rubber gloves and goggles when placing any of these barriers.

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john smith says:
7 March 2015

When I had a small pond I never noticed slugs as I was told the frogs eat them. Then I had a grass snake visit my pond and eat the frogs. Now no frogs, but more slugs than I have been used to over 30 years. So get a small pond, if you can, for frogs and other wildlife,

Member
F Reed says:
7 March 2015

Keeping ducks, if your circumstances permit, is a fantastic way to get rid of slugs! Organically sound, and free duck food.

Profile photo of wavechange
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That sounds like a noisy form of biological control. 🙂

Profile photo of Beryl
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Definitely a quack remedy!

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No, ducks DON’T work. We used to live beside a stream in the village and I would hurl all and any slugs, especially the large black type, to the ducks that puddled around in the shallows. The ducks came running when they saw me, the fastest grabbing the slug and then realising it’s mistake. The look of disgust on its face was comical and it then spent much time trying to wipe the slime from its beak. In the end I stopped throwing slugs since the ducks had caught on and refused to be tempted. Admittedly, living in the village they were very well fed ducks!

Profile photo of wavechange
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Having investigated the information available online, ducks do eat slugs or can be trained to do so. It’s hardly surprising that well fed ducks are not interested.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Ducks also eat garden plants, so you might be swapping a small problem for a big one. The only saving grace is that to make use of the pest, I’d rather eat ducks than slugs. However, controlling nature is one of the human race’s more unattractive pastimes. Much better to try and live in harmony than to dominate, don’t you think?. Just plant extra lettuce.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Tolerating loss is one solution and choosing plants that are less affected is another. For example, some potatoes are less affected than others, according to what I have read. Biological control is generally regarded as safe providing we stick with indigenous species, though it can be too specific, for example effective on slugs but not snails or eggs.

As Len pointed out, effective pest control is necessary in agriculture and this is currently dependent largely on chemical pesticides. These pesticides are non-selective and harm beneficial species. Planting extra lettuce is a reasonable solution for the garden or allotment but it’s not an answer to the problems of commercial agriculture and ensuring that we have plentiful food at an affordable price.

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This topic started about gardeners’ problems of course, and many of the remedies are only sensibly applicable on a small scale. Commercial growers face different problems but equally are able to invest capital in providing solutions. Hydroponics support a number of crops and presumably do not have a slug problem. Although we have lots of slugs and snails I have never suffered the losses of cabbages or other brassicas, broad beans, peas or runner beans that Len had to deal with. Perhaps the type of ground where you grow is a factor?

Profile photo of wavechange
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I think your are right about the effect of the soil. Agriculture focuses on growing vast numbers of the same plants, producing an ideal habitat for certain pests. That’s one reason that crop rotation is practised.

Most gardeners are prepared to put up with pest-damaged produce to some extent, but that would be rejected by paying customers and therefore by the supermarkets. Pest damage can also affect storage properties of potatoes etc.

Profile photo of Andrew Collins
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Surely planting extra lettuce Malcolm, you’ll be providing those slugs with a mighty feast or even attract a larger crowd of slugs (Won’t they tell all their friends?) Also, do they stop when they get full..?

Profile photo of wavechange
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The slugs don’t have mobile phones, Andrew, so they would have to go and find their friends. They may not move at a snail’s pace but they are very sluggish.

If we could train slugs to finish off one plant before starting on another, the damage would be much reduced.

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Haha wavechange, that made me laugh! I wasn’t sure if slugs, like other insects, had ways of attracting others. For example, when killing a wasp, doesn’t it release a pheromone that draws more wasps to aid their fallen comrade?

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You are right about the pheromones Andrew. I wonder if they could be used in a simple device to attract and trap slugs. Much better than chemical warfare.

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Andrew, it hasn’t worked like that in the past but you have a point – Len’s loss of 250k cabbages in 6 hours was a worry. Perhaps I’ve, over the years. just achieved an amicable arrangement with my slugs and achieved a natural balance.

Birds are the ones with mobile phones, wavechange. As soon as we filled the bird feeders with seed our feathered friends arrived in flocks.like bees finding a nice field in flower. The crows are the most intelligent – one flaps on the feeder so seed spills onto the ground where its family and associates gobble it up. I’ve put up a notice saying “Slug and Snail Takeaway” with a “scores on the doors of 5” in the hope they will also come to an amicable agreement with these pests.

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Well slugs being nocturnal (most of them) they obviously are smart enough to know when birds are sleeping so we need to increase the owl population. I’m not sure about bats! There’s no getting away from it Malcolm, you need to get out with the garden hoe to assist your birds to get at the slug eggs first and foremost.

I have never considered the crows in my garden to be that smart since they do all the hard work pecking at the nuts and seeds while the more intelligent ones stay on the ground picking up all the spills!!!

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I might have a go at the eggs with an ammonia spray, as suggested in the list posted by Dieseltaylor. This will disappear promptly, making it environmentally safe compared with other chemical treatments. Care is needed in its use.

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GRIZZLY says:
7 March 2015

If you can get hold of it these days, use weathered soot, buy putting it in a ring around your plants slugs and snails will not cross that barrier. I and many others used that method on our Allotments but now we are down to using them there slug pellets, yep you need to replenish them if it rains Ha Ha Ha.

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Free duck food sounds good – I love duck breast with home-made plum sauce. I’ll happily forget they lived on slugs.

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Michael says:
8 March 2015

We have very very few slugs or snails in our very large garden.

How? Simple.

Over the years we have encouraged, fed and fostered through the winters our little band of stormtroopers aka blackbirds. They reward us by keeping slugs and snails to the bare minimum.

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Robert Christie says:
8 March 2015

Many years ago my father used clinker from local coal fired power station . I have used coal dust and grit down to about 5 mm ,slugs NOT keen on it as it clogs their trail .I used to go on night patrol , pick up all I could see , into a jar, microwave them. The smell was fairly inviting but NEVER sampled them .Another method was, lay thick black polythene between rows, pick up in daylight scrape off , microwave. Now at night I cut them in half, leave them in place, in a few hours I have observed their mates HAVING AN OLD FRIEND FOR DINNER .For snails leave a damp dark place, a few weighted boards, lift them in daylight, squash them on path, leaving them for the thrush. One year I dispatched over 3,000 .A bit paranoid perhaps but the research had to be done .TIP hundreds can be caught in fine rain/drizzle conditions .My best “trap” was coal dust. HAPPY HUNTING ! !

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cazbah says:
8 March 2015

I’ve started collecting plastic bottles – eg fruit juice, milk containers,- cutting a section out of the middle, putting a ring of copper tape round it and placing them around seedlings. It’s not completely foolproof but has been reasonably successful and is cheap! Also found crushed eggshells help a bit but you do have to crush them quite small and they only last a week or two.

Now does anybody know how to keep those tiny snails out of the wrinkles in Curly Kale?!

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I have tried nematodes. They are part of my annual battle against slugs and snails, which is a several-pronged attack.

Nematodes work well as long as you apply them when the slugs first hatch. I think there are two main times each year, roughly March/April and September. The ground needs to be damp when you apply them and kept damp for them to work.

Last year I grew dahlias for the first time. The slugs and snail loved those – they got nibbled back to stumps in no time at all. But I found that plastic collars were quite good to let them establish and worked well unless the leaves drooped down to touch the collars.

Last year I also tried wool pellets for the first time. I soaked them first and applied them in a thick soggy mat about 8cm around the stem. These worked an absolute treat on the Dahlias. I got months of flowers and very few nibbles on them after the wool pellets were applied. I have found the same with a lupin that I overwintered, but something has been digging under the wool around that one, which is a bit annoying. They were a bit less successul with the hostas, their leaves turned yellow and died back, not sure if it was the wool or the fact that they had been nibbled back to the point of extinction before I reached them. Will definitely be trying wool again this year.

I generally find that removing them by hand, and putting them in the green waste bin so that they are removed entirely from the garden. I find that the best thing for finding all the small snails is to leave tidying my garden up for winter until late Jan/Feb. As I am pulling out all the old leaves I pull a bundle of baby snails out with them and throw them in the recycling bin.

It is worth checking out the base of evergreen plants such as phormiums because slugs and snails love to hide in those!

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Victoria, I like dahlias and grow from both seed and tubers – anxiously watching them sprout in the greenhouse at the moment. I grow them on in pots before planting them out late May, so they are usually fairly substantial plants by then. They then suffer minimal damage from slugs and snails.

Trouble is, there are other “pests” in the garden as well – ants that undermine the lawn and get into pots, wasps that made a nest in the shed, whitefly that infested the greenhouse, blackfly on the beans, and pigeons that assume I just grow peas and beans for them. We have to adopt other tactics apart from anihillation.

I use wire mesh “cloches” over peas and beans when they are first growing and that seems to deter birds effectively. One problem is that when you cut it you leave sharp short wires than can jab you if you aren’t careful. This set me thinking – you can get mesh with 1/4″ (sorry, 6.3mm) holes. Maybe if you cut long narrow strips, leaving the sharp wires along the top, and surround vulnerable plants with them as a pallisade htis might keep slugs and snails at bay? Any one tried it?

For Christmas we were bought a battery-operated “Bug Bat” – like a small tennis raquet with two wire grids in the frame. Supposed to zap biting bugs and wasps when they touch it. So tea in the garden might be less of a challenge when the wasp air force is on manoeuvres.

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A night time raid with a torch on a damp night is probably the best option, when slugs and snails are on their slimy travels! They can then be collected and banished from the garden or disposed of humanely. Eventually you will see a decline in numbers.
It’s essential to do this several days before planting vegetables or flowers. Gardeners often spread slug pellets directly after planting, but this leaves slugs with a choice of pellets or your prized plants on the menu, so damage can still result until they have been eradicated.
I wish someone would genetically engineer weed eating slugs and snails – Now that would be useful!

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Maewyn says:
29 March 2015

I’m a slug patroller, like many others. Wearing disposable latex gloves prevents hands from becoming horribly slimy. Drop the slugs and snails into very hot water, and they die instantly. Then throw the lot into the compost, and the slugs can feed the garden rather than eating it. If you use salty water it will slow down the composting process as the salt will kill of the bacteria and other helpful composters.

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Yoga monkey says:
21 July 2015

Can anyone tell me if slug/snail etc bitten leaves make the vegetable more nutritious? I mean, are there any health benefits to a plant being bitten into by an invertebrate scavenger?
Someone told me this snippet recently and I wonder if there is any truth behind it?
Plants do produce their versions of an immune response when attacked or predated, lectins or plant hormones are there to deter the consumption of their seeds etc but does a bug biting into a leaf cause the release of healthful chemicals?
A positive spin on slug attacks perhaps!

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Great idea Yoga monkey! Although I have to say my first thought was whether I would want to eat anything with slug slime on it, as slugs and snails are chock full of parasites and bacteria.
So, I checked with our slug experts at the test lab and they told me that when a plant is eaten by a pest, including slugs and snails, it produces two plant hormones as a defense mechanism: jasmonic acid and salicylic acid.
They are both naturally produced hormones and have numerous different roles within plants, so are present in many plant-derived foods that we would eat anyway. Jasmonic acid seems to play a part in the production of tuber in potatoes. Salicylic acid is involved in a whole range of plant processes, including photosynthesis and nutrient take-up, and can be found in a wide range of foods from berries to peanuts.
Of the two, salicylic acid seems to be more beneficial for health and it used as an ingredient in anti-inflammatory drugs and as an ingredient in topical creams for conditions such as psoriasis, acne and corns.
Jasmonic acid is applied to some seeds as a pest deterrent.
So, the long and the short of it seems to be that we probably have better sources of salicylic acid available in the foods we already eat, but at least we don’t need to turn our noses up at slug nibbled veg.

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And of course salicylic acid is the forerunner of aspirin. I did see a claim about 20 years ago in the New Scientist that eating trace elements of salicylic acid was mans normal diet and that eating supermarket specimens was stopping us getting this boost . This on the basis that some plants having never been attacked had limited need to defend itself by producing the acid.

There is some research published this month on how salicylic acid actually works :
” Scientists are finally getting a glimpse into how defense hormones shape plant health both above and below the soil, thanks to a study published today (July 16) in Science. The results show how an Arabidopsis thaliana defense hormone, salicylic acid, which helps protect the health of the plant’s shoots and leaves, also guides the growth of microbial communities in and around its roots.
“This is the first study that really tied this phytohormone to the microbiome associated with the root,” said Xinnian Dong, a professor of biology at Duke University who was not affiliated with the work.
Commensal root microbes can confer numerous benefits to a plant, including increased tolerance to environmental stressors like heat, drought, and acidity, and aid in the plant’s acquisition of nutrients. However, little is known about how plants might influence their underground microbial communities, or how a plant’s immune system interacts with the bacteria it encounters in the soil.”

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Snails and slugs have been a serious issue for my garden for years. I am really against the usage of chemicals and that is why I am always looking for new solutions! Thanks for the article! Here is another one that I find helpful :http://www.houzz.co.uk/ideabooks/57663016/thumbs/protect-your-garden-from-slugs-and-snails

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Kerwin Maude says:
6 May 2016

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Sprinkle table salt around your garden or flower plants at least 3 feet away from the plants. Sprinkle it lightly in dry weather and reapply after rainy periods, common sense. The slug will self implode into a gooey glob; commerical baits might be effective but salt is cheap and very effective. Slug baits bought at retailers might have issues for pets, curious kids and plants, but ask an expert. If you want to whack pesky ants, try 50/50 mix of borax and icing sugar, it works like a charm but ants are resilient buggers. If you want to kill unsightly weeds, vinegar is great and I use recycled window bug screen fabric or new defective rolls to layer them at least two sheets thick around my shrubbery and it works beautifully. They are porous and permit air and water but weeds struggle to pop through, and landscape fabric is costly. My landscape project has been weed free for over 9 years, try it to reuse and recycle window bug screens instead of them in landfills.

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I’ve never tried it myself, but some people eat snails. As a child, I did eat periwinkles, and that’s maybe similar? Anyway, I have spent around twenty very early mornings (between the end of June and now, at about 5am or earlier) collecting snails from my garden and helping them migrate to a nice grassy area of parkland across the road. I haven’t injured them in any way if I could help it, and if seagulls and magpies began to be seen more often on the grassy area, well…. Any snails and slugs that tried to cross the road again were gently redirected by me, and now the population in my garden is well down, and I don’t see any on the grassy area either.