Do Slugs Have Uses?


I love growing dahlias in the garden.  There is something about the range of colours and the range of flower types that draws me to them every year; and every year it draws the slugs and snails in too.  These guys then munch my precious blooms, often before they have had a chance to flower, leaving nothing but sticks or stumps, which will never become the object of my fascination, only my frustration.

In defence of slugs I am sure that they have their uses, but mostly I can’t think what they might be.  I do sometimes wonder if the slime that they use to effortlessly glide around the pots and paving slabs in the garden can be harnessed for some nefarious purpose.  Although slugs have no problem moving about on it, if you’ve ever gotten any on your fingers you’ll know that it is one of the most disgusting and sticky substances known to man.  So perhaps if you are able to “cure” it, could it be a viable glue replacement?  Could Solvite market it as an eco-wallpaper paste?

Perhaps you could draft-proof your house with a long row of slugs around the gaps where the wind whistles through in the winter months?

If slugs were edible (they might be for all I know, but I am not going to experiment on this one to find out), could they be the next big thing around the campfire and be a replacement for marshmallows?

I’m sure as a schoolboy I can remember being both the giver and recipient of the slug-down-the-back-of-the-shirt trick, and I am sure that there are many other options when it comes to what little boys could use them for.

Despite that the short answer is I don’t know if they have any practical purpose, even the great Google couldn’t really tell me, apart from there seemed to a small consensus in the squishing department.

They are of course a great source of protein for those animals that eat them.  Hedgehogs, birds, domestic-fowl and apparently pond fish, all are keen consumers.  I have known this for some time which is why I don’t resort to using poison bait in the garden for the slugs, due to accumulation in the food chain, and potential for unintended effects on the non-target species, e.g. the slug predators, but also the fact we have dogs and don’t want them accidentally consuming the slug pellets too.  That said the predators aren’t doing enough to reduce the prey population in favour of my dahlias.

Now of course there are “environmentally-friendly” slug pellets, which have an iron or aluminium rather than a copper content, which are not as toxic to non-target species, but still dispatch the slug.  They have never seemed any more effective than a healthy hedgehog population though, so this year though I’ve been trying the WMD of slug warfare, the biological weapon.  The nematode.  Or rather not one single nematode, but billions of ‘em, these little microscopic worms live naturally in the soil, and an application via watering can of more nematodes means that the population increases and attack the slugs in greater numbers.  The slugs stop feeding and eventually die, leaving my dahlias alone, or at least only for the snails to eat (the nematodes don’t seem to go for them), but it at least gives them a fighting chance.  So far it seems to be working, and is relatively hassle free if a little on the expensive side, but time will tell if it isn’t a success then I’ll have to go back to the drawing board, and see if there isn’t a more productive use for them, either that or start farming hedgehogs!