What Do Slugs Do?

What Do Slugs Do

As a gardener, you’ll probably assume that slugs do nothing but cause destruction and damage across your garden eating everything and anything in their path. But is this the case or is there a purpose to slugs? We have to ask ourselves: What do slugs do exactly?

Apart from eating plants, slugs are prey for other animals and a vital part of the food chain.

Slugs are part of the ecosystem we all live in. Like all animals, slugs serve a purpose. Gardeners know slugs as being pests that consume plants and destroy them but they are actually an important part of the food chain for many animals.

What’s the Point of Slugs?

The ecosystem is balanced because of all the animals that belong to it. Slugs are one of those many animals that keep the ecosystem intact. Ultimately, slugs are food for other animals. 

Animals like birds, hedgehogs and frogs are keen eaters of slugs. Because slugs are slow and have no natural defences, they make for easy prey in the garden.

You might think that slugs are a waste of time. But they do have a purpose on this planet.

What are the Benefits of Slugs?

Slugs have gained a bad reputation amongst gardeners. But there are actually some benefits to having slugs in the garden.

They Provide Food to Animals

The first benefit is the obvious one we have already mentioned and that is slugs are food for many animals.

Slugs tend to live close to many places where other animals linger such as frogs, toads, hedgehogs, ducks and birds. Slugs are a good source of nutrients and protein for animals.

They Consume Dead Matter

Slugs are notorious for consuming plants, but they eat other things that benefit the environment.

Slugs consume dead organic matter and dead vegetation. Different slug species consume dying plants, dead animals, and animal faeces. Slugs play an important role in the environment as decomposers.

They Spread Seeds

Although rare and unlikely to fill your garden with flower meadows, slugs do help spread seeds that are found in faeces or vegetation.

What Are the Drawbacks to Slugs?

While slugs are beneficial for the environment, some drawbacks are associated with them, as you are well aware!

Slugs are bad for plants. There are certain, obvious, threats that slugs pose for plants:

Destruction of Flowers and Fruits

Slugs can be good climbers and climb their way on trees and plants to reach the top for leaves and fruits. Slugs destroy flowers and fruits. Slugs eat more than their weight, which results in great loss for vegetation in a short period of time.

You might think that the beans at the top of your parts or your climbing berries are safe but that is not necessarily the case.

Beneath Ground Damage

Not only do slugs destroy above ground level, but they also cause trouble underneath. Slugs eat the roots of plants and weaken their foundation. If a plant has been infested with slugs, it can spread to the other roots causing endless damage across the garden. 

The big issue here is that you don’t know the damage is taking place until it is too late. The plant dies, you pull it out and suddenly discover a whole collection of slugs hanging out in the roots.

Bulb Demolition

As soon as you plant bulbs in your garden, slugs are known to consume them right away. Since the plant is just starting out, it is not prepared to ward off the attack.

The resulting plant does not grow well, and the quality drops. This is also why slugs will consume seedlings and new saplings as soon as they sprout.

But this isn’t the only reason why slugs suck! 

Slug populations in gardens increase quickly because of the mucus trail they leave behind. With the help of the mucus trail, other slugs enter the garden. The mucus not only aids slugs to glide in but also attracts their fellow members. 

Apart from the damage slugs do to plants and gardens, they are hosts of the dangerous lungworm parasite. The parasite is found in rats, but they can get infected since slugs feed on rat droppings. This parasite can harm humans, cats, dogs and other pets.

Summary

As gardeners, we all dislike slugs. As far as we’re concerned, they turn up into our gardens and eat everything in their path from our vegetables to our flowers. And that’s all they do!

But this isn’t the case. You may be surprised to learn that there is a purpose to slugs. They do have benefits. They provide something to the environment.

Slugs act are a vital part of the food chain for many animals including frogs and hedgehogs. Slugs also eat dead matter in your garden.

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