Lovely weather… for slugs

Our wet summer in Britain has led to increases in slug and snail populations. We British (or was it the English?) have been called ‘a nation of gardeners’ as well as one or two less flattering descriptions. It’s true: gardens thrive in our wonderful landscapes. But as the Independent’s article points out, when the slugs and snails breed as they’re breeding this summer, we amateur gardeners lose terribly. As I’ve said before, I feel blessed that my allotment isn’t my livelihood. I’m not envying market gardeners their jobs this year.

With so many amateur gardeners, of course there are a lot – a *lot* – of garden centres and other retailers of gardening stuff. Online retailers, mail order catalogues, all kinds of garden porn. The Independent article reports increases in the sales of slug pellets this year. I want to research the issue of poisoning to species that prey on slugs. It’s sometimes alleged that those of us who use the blue slug pellets are killing hedgehogs. Yes, I use blue (metaldehyde) slug pellets. The ones approved for organic gardeners are pretty useless in my experience, except as tasty snacks for woodpigeons and magpies. Is it really true that people like me are killing Mrs Tiggywinkle and Mr Toad?

I hope to come back to this story but meanwhile I notice that the Independent article mentions two invasive slug species, Arion vulgaris and A. flagellu. Another thing I’d like to research more. How did these species get here from their native Spain and when did it happen? I’ve already observed that the gardeners I know who have little trouble with slugs are those whose soils are sandier than mine. Yet the organic gardening books and magazines continue to tell us that we can solve the whole problem with beer traps.


About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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7 Responses to Lovely weather… for slugs

  1. Missus Tribble says:

    Our soil is heavy clay, and we have a *horrible* slug issue every year! We use the blue organic slug pellets, since our Hedgehof was killed by a cat some time ago, but I also use French Marigolds as “cannon fodder” around vulnerable ornamentals and important foodstuff (no slimy sod is getting my hard-earned Romanesco).

    If I plant the Marigolds in waves the first wave will be munched, the second wave will only be partially munched and the third wave will give me gorgeous red and orange flowers. They produce so many seeds per flower head that I never need to worry about running low, and the slugs can eat as many of them as they like, as long as they leave my brassicas, nasturtiums, redcurrant bushes, rosemary and lemon verbena alone!

    Which reminds me… slugs seem to be repelled by nasturtiums. Mine are taking over the bloody garden and I only wanted a few seed pods to make faux capers this autumn!

  2. Missus Tribble says:

    Oh, and I meant Hedgehog (I don’t want a Hoff anywhere near me thanks LOL!)

  3. You actually make it appear so easy together with your presentation however I to find this matter to be actually one thing which I believe I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me. I am having a look ahead to your subsequent post, I will try to get the hang of it!

  4. Pingback: Pests and wildlife in the year that was | Science on the Land

  5. Pingback: Hedgehog population in decline | Science on the Land

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