Gardeners are being warned to get ready early for their great slug and snail hunt this year as winter temperatures have provided the perfect conditions for their arch enemies.
Last year, gardeners spent £11.6 million in their battle to protect their botanical spaces, battling over 30 species of slugs including a voracious invader discovered on our shores only last year – the Spanish slug.
Slugs like mild and warm winters and Met Office statistics show that average temperatures were slightly above what would be expected for both December and January.
Slug experts are now warning gardeners that this will cause a population explosion, allowing them to cause devastation in their wake.
Sarah Fuller, marketing director at Wyevale Garden Centre, said: “Slugs and snails are a real problem, making gardening a true 24 hour activity.
“It’s likely more slugs have survived this winter so gardeners will be fighting larger numbers and need to use really effective methods.
Slug numbers, especially the invading Spanish slug, will escalate this yearUK’s leading entomologist Dr Ian Bedford
“A main concern for gardeners is ensuring that they use pet and child-friendly methods and we’re expecting new products we’re stocking to be hugely popular.
“Whilst snails will continue to be a problem, we are not expecting the snail population to worsen this summer.
“Quick tip for gardeners looking to remove snails, don’t think that throwing them over your neighbours’ wall will solve the problem as they will more often than not find their way back!”
There are many slugs British gardeners should be wary of, but none more fearsome then the Spanish ‘Superslug’. It grows up to 15cm and with no predators and an extra layer of protective slime making them immune to most products, it outcompetes all its fellow UK slugs (and even eats them). It also reproduces at twice the rate of native UK slugs, making it the number one target for gardeners.
UK’s leading entomologist Dr Ian Bedford says: “It’s been estimated that a cubic metre of a garden in the UK could accommodate up to 200 slugs, each of which can have up to 200 offspring.
“They usually survive the winter in our gardens as eggs. Without a cold snap, it’s fair to say that slug numbers, especially the invading Spanish slug (which can lay up to 400 eggs!), will escalate this year.”
Gardeners need not panic and can use Wyevale’s plan of attack to protect their gardens from these slimy critters:
* Now – 30 days to population explosion: stock up on supplies; put out your slug pellets; surround vulnerable plants with material such as sharp grit or broken egg shells.
* Late March – 15 days to population explosion: rotovate your soil to expose slugs and eggs to predators; head out at night with a torch to collect and remove slugs; protect pot plants by greasing the rim with Vaseline mixed with salt; set beer traps by burying jars of beer which slugs find irresistible and as they head for the beer, they fall in to meet their demise.
* April-August – all out war: continue with night hunts and stock up on pellets;
nSeptember – start your battle for next year by removing any eggs.