Nature on our doorsteps: Finding a balance with slugs
Slugs breathe through the pore on the side of its body

Nature on our doorsteps: Finding a balance with slugs

Most people see slugs as pests.  They devour seedlings, flowers, soft fruits, and they eat tender growing tips of plants, causing them to become stunted and distorted.

There is another side to slugs, however.

Slugs are nature’s recyclers.  Because the large orange, black, or mottled-green slugs mainly eat dead plants, they help clear away rotting material and they return vital nutrients to the soil.

Slugs are a critical part of the food chain.

They are eaten by hedgehogs, badgers, frogs, beetles, and earwigs.  Birds feed hundreds of them to their chicks in springtime.

Some wildlife experts even suggest we should be encouraging more slugs!

BREAK DOWN: This mottled green slug likes the compost bin, where it helps break down rotting food

Harsh frosty winters help control their numbers.  Milder winters allow slugs to continue feeding and reproducing, resulting in high numbers just as plant growth begins in springtime.

Using chemical pellets to control them seriously affects the animals and birds who eat slugs.

Alternative wildlife-friendly control methods include using beer traps, or using barriers of sharp sand, coffee grounds, or copper wire around plants.

Also, because slugs don’t like strongly scented plants like Geraniums, Rosemary, or Marigolds, growing these amongst our more delicate plants can help keep slugs at bay.

As climate change brings milder winters, we will need different strategies to find a balance between protecting natural food chains and avoiding the devastation caused by plant pests.

By Rosaleen Dwyer

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