Guide Other pests

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8. Slugs and snails


Slugs and snails are molluscs, feeding on a variety of plants and decaying plant matter. Slugs and snails move by means of a muscular foot which secretes mucus along which the animal glides. This mucus later dries to form the tell tale silvery slime trails. Snails lay approximately 80 round white eggs into holes or harbourages in the soil. Both slugs and snails need moisture and are most active at night or during cloudy and rainy days. On dry, sunny days snails shut themselves into their shells, sealing the entrance to keep moist. During cold weather slugs and snails hibernate in the topsoil.

How do I get rid of them?

Here are some practical ways to try and control slugs and snails in your garden and home:

  • Eliminate sites where slugs and snails may hide during the day such as stones, debris or vegetation growing close to the ground.
  • If you water infested areas of your garden in late afternoon you will encourage slugs and snails to come out. Searching the area at dusk and physically removing the slugs and snails can be a very effective form of control.
  • Beer or milk baited traps are effective although their range is confined to only a few feet. A smooth glass or plastic container can be sunk into the soil and filled with beer or milk and the rim positioned1-2 cm above the soil's surface; slugs can crawl up and over the rim and fall into the trap. This technique is best used on a small scale to protect a group of choice plants as the milk or beer has to be replenished every few days and there needs to be a number of traps positioned for this to be effective.
  • Barriers comprising of sand, ash, gravel, broken eggshells and soot are physically difficult for slugs to cross by being either too sharp or by drying up the mucous glands that are necessary for their movement.
  • Traditional slug pellets, made using metaldehyde are now banned from manufacture in the UK and there use is not permitted in your garden after March 2022. Most of the slug pellets now for sale in the UK use iron or Ferric Phosphate as their active slug killing ingredient. Remaining products containing metaldehyde should not be disposed of at home and up to 5 litres in a secure, labelled container can be taken to the Devon County Council operated Household Recycling & Waste Centres and disposed of as Hazardous Waste.
  • Soil rotovation in early spring is one of the best of all slug controls. Three passes with a rotovator across an area of soil should reduce slug numbers considerably. This can therefore be more effective than any of the chemical treatments. Choose a time when the weather is warming up, to ensure that the slugs are at or near the soil's surface. Rotovating the soil both physically kills slugs and also exposes them and their eggs to predators and the weather. Digging by hand will have the same result to a lesser extent, and may be necessary where rotovating is inappropriate.