Make friends with Molluscs this spring

by | 12 April 2024 | Retford, Wildlife

As we move into spring, a whole host of wildlife should be more visible and vocal, from hedgehogs snuffling in your borders in search of tasty morsels to the dawn chorus of birds including blackbirds and song thrushes.

One thing that these species and more share is a penchant for eating slugs and snails. So, if we want our gardens to be more welcoming to wildlife, we must be more accommodating of slugs and snails.

This is the core message of the latest joint campaign by The Wildlife Trusts and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). Over the years, our Wild about Gardens collaboration has helped raise awareness of species from hedgehogs to bees, but this year’s focus is possibly our most challenging yet – persuading gardeners they should throw a collective arm around slugs and snails is a bit like trying to sell sand in a desert. As a keen gardener, slugs and snails sometimes cause me real angst – but I have grown to appreciate that not all slugs and snails are gardeners’ foes.

Our ‘Making Friends with Molluscs’ campaign aims to encourage gardeners to reconsider the role of these much-maligned creatures in garden ecosystems. Their negative reputation is somewhat undeserved and discriminatory. Only a small proportion of the 150 or so UK species of slugs and snails pose problems for gardeners. Most make a positive contribution, and by learning live alongside our slithering friends, we can practice a more environmentally approach to gardening. They are valuable member of nature’s clean-up crew – feeding on rotting plants, fungi, dung and even carrion – helping keep our plots tidier. They also help recycle nitrogen, other nutrients, and minerals into soils. Molluscs are a key food supply for many more appreciated garden visitors, such as hedgehogs, song thrushes and frogs. By being more accommodating of molluscs, gardeners can indirectly support an array of other creatures. Some slugs, including the leopard slug, even help keep more problematic species of slug at bay.

To become matchmakers between gardeners and molluscs, The Wildlife Trusts and the RHS have developed these top tips.

  • Provide shelter: log piles and natural debris may make molluscs less likely to venture onto your bedding or vegetable beds.
  • Plant selectively – choose plants that molluscs are less attracted to or which are better able to resist them including lavender and hardy geraniums.
  • Use barriers: copper tape and wool pellets can provide some protection for vulnerable plants.
  • Handpick and monitor: regularly inspecting plants for signs of mollusc damage, manually removing molluscs you find can prevent the worst impacts.
  • Encourage predators: create a haven for natural predators such as ground beetles and song thrushes by providing habitats such as long grass, log piles and wildlife-friendly ponds to achieve a natural balance of species.

By adopting these tips, we can avoid resorting to pesticides that can indiscriminately poison other creatures.

Find out more

For more information on the benefits of slugs and snails in gardens, download a free copy of the Making friends with molluscs guide at www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk.

Image: Amber snail, Gee White