What Benefits do Slugs have in the Garden?

Slug: the common name for a single-shelled, soft-bodied mollusc.

Slug: one who is hungry for my hostas, decimates my delphiniums, lives in my lupins and who cannot get enough of my cabbages.

Slug: the perennial bain of many gardeners’ lives!

There are more than 40 species of slug in the UK so it’s no wonder we find them hanging out in our gardens where we have provided a rich banquet of free food from which they can feed. Slugs and snails come out near the top of the RHS Top Ten most enquired about pests every year. Despite the plethora of measures available to limit the damage they can do in gardens, they are still considered persistent, garden pests. 

For many gardeners, there is an ongoing battle to save precious plants and vegetables from the destructive attack of these mini enemies. And yet, it would be inconceivable to believe that slugs do not have an important part to play in the circle of life.

Most species feed on dead or decomposing plant matter such as fallen leaves and return it, once digested, to the soil which increases the organic content of the soil, so some slugs in the garden may actually be beneficial. 

In the compost heap slugs can be a valuable part of the composting process breaking down green and brown matter and so this is a great place to rehome any slugs you find in the garden. Put them to work for you making beautiful compost.

Slugs are also very important in the circle of life, providing food for all sorts of mammals like hedgehogs, birds like song thrushes, earthworms, slow worms, insects, newts, frogs and toads. They are part of the natural balance of the ecosystem in our gardens which is why they should never be controlled by chemical means which can then by passed to another species through ingestion.

Close-up of a Song thrush (Turdus philomelos). Image credit: BBC Wildlife Magazine

It can often feel like a losing battle in the war to save your favourite plants but there are tried and tested, non-chemical methods which gardeners turn to and a combination of methods is often the best bet!

You will never eradicate slugs completely from your garden and you may just have to learn to live with a little slug damage but if they hoover up some dead vegetation for you, make your soil a little richer and provide food for the birds and hedgehogs, then maybe you can learnt to live with that!

One thought on “What Benefits do Slugs have in the Garden?

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  1. We once found a leopard slug in our garden. It was enormous and was grey with darker spots on its body. Apparently they eat fungus, rotting vegetation and other slugs! Not a slug to banish but encourage.

    Liked by 1 person

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