Slugs and bugs

After trying to tempt birds into the garden for six years, I gave up. They simply wouldn’t come in – no idea why. I noticed a willow warbler on a bush in next door’s garden – but did it pop over the fence and visit mine? No it bloody didn’t. And before you ask, they have a cat, two dogs and two kids. And their garden is as close to the road as ours is.

The people in the house at the back of us get all manner of birds (blue tits, goldfinches, house sparrows) in their tree – and they have a cat.

So, forget the birds, who needs ‘em. I got rid of the nuts and the seeds, I was tired of chucking mouldy uneaten bird food away. And I turned my attention to insects. Well, not just insects – arachnids, molluscs, invertebrates, creepies and crawlies and bugs in general. I wrote about it here.

My sneaky plan is to tempt the birds in by providing lots of juicy insects for them to eat… And in the meantime, the insects need all the help they can get.

I’ve provided water, I don’t pull up the weeds until they’ve finished flowering, I have a mini log-pile and I’ve planted wild flower seeds. I’ve left some of the grass to grow long, I have an insect hotel, and a compost heap.

Well, I’ve had a few successes – loads of aphids on the clematis, being eaten by loads of ladybirds.

Solitary bees doing whatever solitary bees do in the insect hotel.

Lots of creeping and crawling things in the new compost heap. I’m really pleased with the compost heap. No idea if it will ever make compost, but it feels very good putting the kitchen waste in there rather than in the bin. I don’t overload it with grass clippings, as that’s not good and can get very slimy and nasty. I turn the heap regularly – and I’m really surprised at how pleasant it smells when you turn it. And also how quickly stuff ceases to be recognisable.

The slates that I propped up against the wall, to give shelter to the bugs and the beasties on cold wet days are doing their job. The soil underneath is alive with woodlice and spiders.

I found a lacewing sunning itself on the side of the shed.

And I disturbed the most amazing black and orange moth – a bit sad about that, as it flew away out of the garden. But at least it was here, if only briefly.

There are lots of worms in the soil. And I’ve seen hoverflies, wasps, bees and butterflies buzzing and bobbing about.

All is good.

But then there are the slugs. Oh my god, the slugs.

What even is the point of slugs? I went out one night and started picking them up – there must have been 20 of the buggers (and it’s only a small garden). The next night, another 10 or so. The night after that only a couple – but we’ve had a lot of rain since then, so there’ll be more.

Interestingly, I’ve never seen any snails in the garden. Just slugs.

Now would be a good time for the birds to come along and gorge themselves on slugs. But do they? DO THEY?? No, they flippin’ don’t.

In the spirit of ‘Know thine enemy’, here are 15 facts about slugs that you always wanted to know, but never dared ask –

  • There are 32 species of slug in the UK. Most of them live in my garden…
  • They eat with their foot – that’s why they’re called gastropods.
  • They have 27,000 teeth. I think this freaks me out more than the slime!
  • They like beer – it’s the only thing we have in common.
  • They don’t like copper – it gives them electric shocks.
  • They’re predated by hedgehogs, thrushes and beetles.
  • The mucus trail helps them find their way back home.
  • They can live up to six years. Or one year. It depends which website you look at.
  • They are hermaphrodite – so you don’t need a Mummy slug and a Daddy slug in order to get baby slugs
  • A single slug could have 90,000 grandchildren.
  • Even the baby ones aren’t cute.
  • The full grown ones just look like turds.
  • If you put them down at the bottom of a green wheelie bin it will take them two days to climb back out.
  • They will eat any green plants apart from weeds. They are always particularly fond of the plants you are particularly fond of.
  • The Black Slug is also available in brown.

To answer my question – what’s the point of them? Well, apparently, they also eat dead leaves. If, that is, they ever have any room left in their tiny little sluggy tummies after they’ve eaten all the good stuff.

My father (a milder mannered man you could never hope to meet) takes great delight in cutting them in half with the shears. Eww.

But also – go Dad!!

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. anglosvizzera says:

    Yes…slugs. Allegedly hedgehogs and frogs eat them. We used to have a hedgehog that visited the garden until our neighbour put up a new fence and blocked off its circular path…so I have no idea where it goes now. It used to live under the shed in the winter, but alas is no longer there. I’d even gone to the trouble of making a special hedgehog feeding station and feeding it daily over the winter.

    As for frogs, we don’t have a pond but sometimes have resident frogs living in the damp undergrowth. However, the cat that adopted us keeps chasing them away…possibly even eating them, although I’m not sure that cats eat frogs. So we are left with the slugs. My husband sometimes goes out and pours boiling water onto them (I guess it’s painless?) but then leaves the rotting corpses which then attract flies.

    Some slugs do mate, it seems…the Leopard slug. One night my OH called me outside saying there was something disgusting on the back door frame. There was a long ‘rope’ of slime with a horrible writhing mess at the end – he couldn’t work out what it was, but I realised they were two slugs. Checking on the internet, it was exactly that, slugs mating. Have a look for ‘mating Leopard slugs’ and you’ll see all the wonderful images (lol).

    Despite the cat living mostly in our garden (no idea whose she is, nor do any of the neighbours) we still have quite a few birds (probably because she’s pure white); the usual varieties of sparrow and dunnock, blackbirds, robins, tits of all persuasion including the tiny and beautiful long-tailed tits; starlings, pigeons, the odd chaffinch and even a wren – not that it feeds from our ‘bird station’ but has been spotted a few times on the fence. There have been a lot of babies this year too – juvenile sparrows, robins, blackbirds and starlings. Our neighbour also seems to get greenfinches sometimes. As we don’t have a lawn, we don’t get some of the birds I remember from my old gardens, such as jays.

    Hopefully your insect farm will attract more birds too!


    1. I’m very envious of you bird population!! Yes, I’d heard about slugs mating, so I was quite surprised when I read they were hermaphrodite – I guess it depends on the species.


  2. janeyjump says:

    The slug facts are hilarious. We usually have loads of slugs but there are very few this year. Maybe they’re visiting you!


    1. I can bring them back to you if you want??


  3. oldhowie says:

    Aaahhh slugs once went out one night into my garden in my bare feet and one large slimy slug squelched between all my toes… I haven’t been the same man since!


  4. David Harney says:

    My mother would squash them between two housebricks, do you know they are territorial, and will slime their way back if you chuck them elsewhere, Go hunting at night with a torch, you can actually hear them munching, I put them in a used margarine pot, close the lid, and pop it in the wheelie bin.(No slug ever came back after either of these methods). Not sure if you can recycle pots with slugs in, better not I think.


    1. Eww – but I have total respect for your mother. Also, loving the margarine pot idea. Will keep the next one I finish. It’s funny, I don’t have the same hatred for snails (although I don’t get them in this garden, maybe if I did it would be different). You’re probably right about the recycling…


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