Slugs – as gardeners they can be your nemesis and the sight of them can instantly be disheartening. So, what is the purpose of a slug? Are there any benefits to having slugs in the garden or is it all doom and gloom?
A slug’s purpose is to keep the ecosystem intact by being food for other animals. They are an important part of the food chain.
Are Slugs Helpful?
Slugs have a bad reputation when it comes to the gardening community. But, since they exist in the world, there has to be some benefit to them, surely?
Slugs are beneficial to the environment in various ways:
Slugs are Prey for Others
The first benefit which slugs provide is by being the prey of animals. Slugs live in gardens which are areas of high moisture. Therefore, these slimy pests are prey to animals that are found in moist, damp conditions.
Slugs are known to hide under rocks, foliage and small places. Therefore, animals like hedgehogs and frogs in gardens will eat slugs. If you have chickens or ducks you’ll also find that they’ll eat slugs.
You may be surprised to hear that slugs are high in protein and are packed with nutrients they provide to animals. This is why they are an important part of the food chain.
Slugs Eat Rubbish
As a gardener, you might see slugs as the devil. They eat your plants and vegetables and that’s it. Well, slugs also consume other things.
Slugs are known for eating dead matter and dying vegetation. Slugs are actually important decomposers of the environment. Slugs will clean your garden and get rid of dying plants, dead organisms and even animal faeces.
Slugs are Pollinators
This final point can be a huge surprise to some gardeners. Slugs are pollinators… Really? But it’s true that slugs, like many insects and animals, can act as a pollinator. There are different types of pollination.
Much like how the wind pollinates some plants, slugs can also help pollination by moving seeds throughout the garden. They do this when consuming garden matter before excreting it elsewhere.
Are Slugs Harmful?
With benefits com drawbacks and it’s safe to say the list of negatives for slugs is quite extensive – especially for gardeners. So why are slugs harmful?
Slugs Damage Plants
You know, as a gardener, just how much damage slugs can do to your plants. Slugs move notoriously slowly but they certainly don’t take their time when it comes to munching through your plants.
Whether it’s freshly planted salvias, established brassicas or lettuce leaves – slugs aren’t fussy. They’ll happily eat their way through a range of plants before those plants have time to recover. The end result is a dead plant or inedible vegetables.
Slugs Ruin Roots
Slugs not only cause trouble above the ground, but they also cause damage beneath it. Slug damage is not limited to the leaves but to the roots which are underground.
If slugs begin to eat roots of plants, they will damage the foundation and weaken it. But the main issue here is that the damage is invisible and you won’t know the damage has taken place until it is too late.
Slugs Destroy Bulbs
Bulbs, much like roots, are also at risk of slug damage. Slugs consume the bulbs and are vulnerable to slug attacks, especially when freshly planted before it has had time to become large and established.
Again, the damage isn’t visible above ground until it is too late when the bulb begins to bloom and the resulting plant is lacklustre.
Slugs Carry Parasites
Although it’s unlikely that you will eat a slug yourself, there is a risk that a child or a pet will eat a slug. Not all slugs carry the lungworm parasite but many do and this parasite can cause harm to anyone who consumes it.
This goes to show that slugs aren’t just frustrating to gardeners but can, in fact, be dangerous.
Are a Few Slugs Dangerous?
If you have a few slugs, you may think it is not much of a problem. However, having a few slugs will attract more and more slugs. Before you know it, your garden will be inundated with these slimy pests and trying to resolve the issue becomes an impossible challenge.
Although a few slugs are unlikely to cause widespread damage across your garden, it’s best to nip it in the bud before it’s too late.
If you need help on how to get rid of slugs in the garden, then check out our ultimate guide here.
Slugs, do nothing but cause damage in the garden, right? Not quite, there is actually a purpose to the humble slug and they do bring some benefits to the environment. They are a vital food source for many animals, especially hedgehogs and frogs. They can consume unwanted detritus and can even pollinate some plants.
However, as a gardener, you know full well that slugs can cause extensive damage to your garden. They will eat leaves, roots and bulbs and can destroy entire vegetable gardens.
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Ryan is a keen gardener from the UK who’s spent years dealing with countless, common pests over the years so knows the ins and outs of how to deal with pests in the garden