A perennial problem of gardeners everywhere, slugs and snails can wreak havoc with vegetables and leaves etc in gardens. Despite being very slow-moving creatures, they are of the ‘slow but steady‘ nature and can travel a large enough area to get right round most gardens and allotments. Although basically harmless, many people find these pests singularly disgusting and I must declare I am one of those people too! Although slugs and snails hold no fear for me whatsoever, I find their slimy nature abhorrent and I hate the feel of them if I pick one up.
Over the years, gardeners have developed numerous home remedies for dealing with slugs and most of these remedies are based on very sound principles. Often the only drawback with the home remedies is that they may require a lot of effort or preparation if the area to be treated is large. The science underpinning most methods for slug control is sound and will be based on one or two of the basic principles that are:
- Creating a physical barrier that the slugs cannot traverse or really dislike traversing.
- Using materials that act as a repellent – usually harmless but enough to discourage a slug from proceeding through the repellent.
- Using materials that kill the slugs outright – many find this distasteful or unnecessary and only used as a last resort.
You may be surprised to learn that 95% of slugs in a garden will be below the surface -we only see 5% of the population at any one time. There are literally hundreds of slugs in a couple of cubic metres of soil! Not all slug species are detrimental to garden plants, instead eating mostly rotting vegetation and thereby actually performing a useful ecological function.
If You Have Slugs Inside the Home..
Then it’s definitely time to act to get rid of them. Nobody would ever want to live with waking up to slugs or snails or their silvery trails all over the kitchen floor in the morning; God forbid you should stand on one in bare feet! Yuk! If you do ever get slugs inside, often they will be found in parts of the home that are darker, more damp and cooler. Prime locations will be on the floor beneath sinks or around dishwashers etc. If there is damp being caused be a leaking pipe or something else that is fixable, then stopping the leak and therefore the damp, may be sufficient to make the place less favourable to the slugs and they will go elsewhere.
As stated earlier, there are numerous DIY methods for slug and snail control but when they are in the home it is important to try and work out where exactly they are gaining entry and to concentrate efforts there.
Slugs can elongate their bodies to an astonishing degree and squeeze through gaps that might seem to small for them, so it is important to inspect suspected entry points thoroughly bearing in mind that a very small gap under a door or cracks in stone/brickwork can be enough for them to pass through. A very common point of entry are the exterior air vents that punctuate the perimeter’s of houses and flats. I’ve found vents sometimes totally blocked up with various plaster or cement filler products – this should never be done! The vents are there for an important function; they allow the building to breathe and aerate. Blocking vents can lead to damp homes and damp can cause structural problems as well as respiratory problems because of molds etc that thrive in damp conditions.
I imagine people figured they would reduce heat loss/draughts by filling in vents. Also, vents can be where rodents gain entry too, so perhaps people who’ve suffered with rat or mice infestations felt they needed to block the vents to get rid of the rodents. In cases both of slugs and rodents, the vents should be proofed not blocked. This means in practice the fitting of some kind of screen that continues to allow air through, but does not allow the pests through! A fine grade of steel mesh, cut to the shape of the vent, fixed across the face of the vent, will create a solid long-term barrier. Depending on what building materials surround the vent, screws, wire, clips and glue can all be used to fix the mesh to the vent. It need not be Fort Knox, as a pest will be put off trying to enter there and will go elsewhere.
Creating a border right round the perimeter of the building is ideal. It acts as a wall the slugs won’t want to cross. It’s important to know the life-span of the repellent material. Some chemical or organic methods may deteriorate in a couple of weeks, other methods may last longer.
If you want to ensure that your slug problem is properly dealt with, contact a local professional pest control technician. They will have custom-made products that really work well, and after having inspected your building, they will be able to correctly target repellents, offer advice on other measures (such as leaking pipes or open vents) and often also offer the service of actually carrying out building proofing work. Take the disgust and effort out of slug control and get a professional to do it properly.
Most people will have heard of tried and tested methods of killing slugs and snails but I have decided to leave them out of this article, as many find these methods to potentially be very cruel and unnecessary. The effort involved in killing them is no less than the effort of repelling them and as long as people can successfully keep slugs away from the areas they wish, killing creatures when it is not absolutely necessary is a step to far for this author, especially when the pest is beneficial in the right environment. In pest control, certainly these days, killing pests is often a last resort and often totally unnecessary. All pest require food and water and shelter of some kind. Most of the time when there is a pest infestation, be it rodents, birds or insects, there are numerous measures that when taken, remove one or more of the requirements of the pest and the pest will no longer thrive there.
Gordon Mackay, Aberkil