Slugs and snails are the biggest garden pests - here's how to deal with them

Monday, 15th March 2021, 11:19 am
Updated Monday, 15th March 2021, 11:19 am
Do you have problems with slugs and snails in your garden? (Photo: Shutterstock)

According to the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) 25th annual pest and disease ranking, which is based on enquiries from gardners, slugs and snails are at the top of the list.

It is the first time that they have been in first place since 2017, with gardners reporting damages to their crops, such as potatoes and beans.

Andrew Salisbury, principal entomologist at the RHS, says: “The pests and diseases that gardeners commonly face on their plots has fluctuated over the last 25 years but some age-old problems persist.

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“With gardens taking on a more important role in supporting wellbeing and the environment it’s important that research into management and mitigation of them continues and our rankings help inform this focus.

“It’s also imperative that we continue to anticipate future threats such as the disease Xylella, which is already present in Europe, and the Marmorated stink bug, to protect our gardens for the future.”

How to deal with slugs and snails

The RHS has huge resources of advice when it comes to dealing with slugs and snails in your garden.

In regards to snails, the RHS says that “snails are so abundant in gardens that some damage has to be tolerated” and that “they cannot be eradicated, so target control measures on protecting the more vulnerable plants”.

Slugs and snails can be dealt with using similar measures. In terms of control that doesn’t use chemical measures, you could consider:

  • Traps, such as scooped out half orange, grapefruit or melon skins, which can be laid cut side down (or jars filled with beer and sunk into soil near vulnerable plants). Check and empty these traps regularly, preferably every morning
  • Barriers - ones thought to repel snails include rough or sharp textured mulches and substances thought to be distasteful or strong smelling

For use of pesticides, the RHS says that slug pellets approved for use in gardens are those based on ferric phosphate. Products that contain ferric phosphate include: Growing Success Advanced Slug Killer, Solabiol Garden Slug Killer, Vitax Slug Rid, Doff Super Slug Killer, Sluggo Slug & Snail Killer and SlugClear Ultra3.

Previously, slug pellets approved for use in gardens included those based on metaldehyde. Products for home gardens that contain metaldehyde include: Ultimate Slug and Snail Killer, Deadfast Slug Killer, Doff Slug Killer Blue Mini Pellets, Westland Eraza Slug and Snail Killer.

However, in September 2020, the Government announced the withdrawal of metaldehyde slug control, with product sales ending in March 2021 and remaining stocks to be used up or disposed of by 31 March 2022.

In terms of the most humane way to handle slugs and snails, Entomologist and Lead Researcher Hayley Jones says: “Collect the slugs by hand - the best time to catch them is at night, and either release them at a local wood or pop them in your freeze before binning them.”

Alternatively, you can encourage their natural predators into your garden, like birds, hedgehogs and frogs.