Despite high winds and an icy February chill, a full house attended the first meeting of the year. The speaker was Dr Ian Bedford an entomologist whose talk was ‘All you’ll ever need to know about slugs!’
What an absolutely, interesting, fascinating and amusing talk, accompanied by a superb colour slide and video presentation, it was.
Surprisingly not all slugs devour your garden plants!
Slugs are hermaphrodites and evolved from snails around 500 million years ago. There are 5000 species worldwide and are essential for the ecosystem. 40 species are established in Britain. Slugs have brains and tentacles and can regenerate if cut. They thrive in damp conditions, producing slime which aids movement, offers a defence against predators and attracts mates. They will lay 2000 eggs in a lifetime. Mainly nocturnal, they feed on plants by rasping and ripping with their radula, a long tongue like proboscis.
Red and black slugs are good for gardens as they thrive under compost heaps.
Greyfield are surface slugs which can devour flowers and vegetables.
Yellow slugs eat mould, moss, lichen and are partial to pet food!
The most invasive slugs which can grow up to 6 inches long do most damage are the Spanish slugs. They are particularly attracted to yellow flowers especially fields of rape seed. They also eat other snails and dead mice. Fortunately they cannot cope with winter and die.
There are three ways to try and reduce the slug population in gardens.
Naturally. Frogs, toads, centipedes, snakes, toads and nematodes, hedgehogs all enjoy a good meal of slugs!
Physically Barriers of egg shells, copper, seaweed, salt, beer traps.
Chemically Do not use Metaldehyde as this will kill other wildlife especially hedgehogs. Ferric Phosphate is recommended as this is not harmful to other wildlife.
Drowning slugs should be done in a bucket of soapy water as this will restrict their escape. Bleach must be used afterwards to kill off any parasites which the slugs will have consumed. Again any slug remains must not be left on open ground as any household pets could be infected by the parasites.
For those interested, The RHS are recruiting slug spotters across Britain to take part in the largest garden study in 70 years. The RHS is calling on people to assist in a PHD study aimed at identifying species currently active in Britain, their abundance and what attracts them into gardens. The survey can found at rhs.org.uk/slugsurvey
The next meeting will be on Tuesday 10 March at 8.00pm when our guest speaker will be David Coop of Elsoms Seeds who will talk about ‘How to choose the right compost’