Garden Pests Series: S…

Thoughts and musings

Garden Pests Series: S…

Lewis | May 6, 2015 | 0 Comments

…is for Slugs and Snails.

Our Garden Pests Series is drawing to a close! It is a shame, as we know it is rather popular with our regular readers and it has been equally enjoyable to compile and compose from my perspective. It is definitely something for the personal portfolio! But again, I digress. The letter ‘S’ stands for both slugs and snails. These gastropods were were one of the first placed on our alphabetised list, as they are a common nemesis of the gardener. I’m sure they would be one of the first to your mind, too. Therefore, without anymore rhetoric, let’s talk…

Gastropods is the taxonomic class given to slugs and snails, but they are also commonly referred to as ‘garden molluscs’. The reasons why they are being discussed in this blog together are the similarities the two share; this is because slugs actually evolved from slugs. Usually I would describe what these pests look like, but I am not going to; I feel patronising just typing it! I’m sure we are all familiar with the appearance of them. But let’s talk about how they can affect your garden.

Due to their size, they are relatively easy to spot when compared to other garden pests. They are also more active at night, as this is the time of day they feed on a wide range of plants. During the day they prefer to remain in darkness, so they can regularly be found in dark and moist areas of both your garden and greenhouse, maybe hiding underneath large leaves and pots. The sheer number of plants they can potentially feed on is exacerbated by the level of damage they can do, which is severe; they have no qualms eating different parts of plant matter. From stem to leaf, from roots to flowers – slugs and snails can ruin a crop very easily.

There are a number of different species of both slugs and snails, with some doing more damage than others. For example, Arion ater, or the round-backed slug, only feeds on rotting vegetation. As a result, this species poses no harm to the plants, fruit or veg currently living in your garden and will not need controlling or some kind. However, on the other hand, Deroceras reticulatum, or the field slug, is perhaps the most potentially-damaging for your garden and greenhouse plants. It mainly feeds above ground, so keep an eye out for this one in particular.

Slugs and snails, no doubt, will be found in most, if not all, gardens in the UK. If they are posing a problem for you, there are a number of chemical treatment options. Products containing metaldehyde, methiocarb, ferrous phosphate and aluminium sulphate are all effective, but always, please read the manufacturer’s instructions, usually on the label, on top of taking all precautions surrounding PPE. Alternatively, there is a number of different organic treatment options open for use that have proven very effective:

  • You can attract slugs with decomposing organic matter during the night. Come morning, you can kill them by dropping them into salty water;
  • Copper rings based at the base of plants will discourage them due to a small electric current;
  • Stop slug and snails from moving over certain ground by placing sharp sand, ashes, etc.;
  • Purchasing live nematodes is a way to kill problematic slugs; and,
  • Shallow dishes of beer will attract them both, which can cause them to become intoxicated and drown.

The fact that both slugs and snails are very common doesn’t mean to say there aren’t any prevention methods you can use. Here are just a few, with thanks from the BBC:

  • The cultivation of certain areas will expose their eggs to predators;
  • Slugs are attracted to organic mulches, so in this case limit your use of them if possible;
  • Remove anything that either can use as a daytime refuge, such as large stones;
  • Encourage natural predators, such as centipedes, by providing overwintering in the Autumn; and,
  • Check your garden during the night with a torch, removing any you see that are looking for food.

So there you go! You’re comprehensive guide to slugs and snails – two potentially-damaging pests in your garden.



Photo credit: <a href=””>SoulRiser</a> / <a href=””>Source</a> / <a href=””>CC BY-SA</a>