Q. WHAT USE ARE SLUGS?


by Liz Potter |
Q. WHAT USE ARE SLUGS?

Not all slugs are naughty nibblers! In this extract from Do bees need weeds? (£14.99 Mitchell Beazley/RHS) Gareth Richards and Holly Farrell explain the valuable role slugs can play

Believe it or not, most slugs are actually good for the garden. They don’t eat live plants at all – they’re nature’s cleaners, helping tidy up all kinds of garden waste. There are only a few species that damage live plants and there are some that eat other slugs, but all of them are an important part of the food chain for garden wildlife.

Slugs are a hard-working bunch. There are around 40 species in Britain and most of them spend their time harmlessly chomping away on dead or dying material, helping recycle nutrients and making them much more accessible to plants. Having slugs in the compost heap is actually a good thing!

Only a few species are pests but even these have their benefits. Contrary to common belief, they do eat weeds – it’s just that gardeners tend not to notice! They’re also a valuable source of food for wildlife such as hedgehogs, birds and toads.

You might think that slugs have an entirely plant-based diet – but they’re not all herbivores: some are detrivores (scavengers that eat everything from fallen leaves to dead animals and excrement), while others are omnivores and carnivores, who’ll happily eat other slugs.

Q. WHAT USE ARE SLUGS?

The Spanish slug: Donde estan las hostas por favor?

Leopard slug (Limax maximus) Also known as the great grey slug. Undoubtedly the gardener’s slug superstar. With its cool spotty pattern and tendency to eat any slugs and even snails it encounters, it’s definitely one to let live.

Spanish slug (Arion vulgaris) These can grow into 15cm (6in) whoppers and have an appetite to match. Their colour varies from light brownish-orange to chocolate brown and they eat almost anything and everything in the garden.

Q. WHAT USE ARE SLUGS?

Green cellar slug: eats mostly mould and algae

Green cellar slug (Limacus maculatus) Mostly eats mould and algae, helping to recycle plant nutrients so this slug is actually a gardener’s ally. Unless, that is, it gets a scent of pet food, in which case it may overstep its mark.

Grey field slug (Deroceras reticulatum) A very common and variable species that makes quite a nuisance of itself in gardens. Its colours can vary from white to almost black, distinguished by its dark speckles and milky mucus.

Q. WHAT USE ARE SLUGS?

Grey field slug: dark speckles and milky mucus

This is an edited extract from the book Do Bees Need Weeds? by Gareth Richards and Holly Farrell (£14.99, Mitchell Beazley, in association with the RHS)

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