Slugs Ruining Our Veg Crops Frustrates Many Gardeners. But There’s An Eco-Friendly Natural Way To Prevent Slug Damage; Slug Nematodes.

I’m aware that many gardeners are against killing wildlife, especially with chemicals. I understand that. But if, like me, you are happy to encourage frogs, toads, hedgehogs and predatory beetles into your garden to control slugs, then nematodes are equally as natural. They occur in nature and this just reinforces the numbers already in gardens.

Nematodes: Nature’s Microscopic Hunters

Soya Bean Nematode , not a slug nematode. 
Agricultural Research Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

These tiny organisms, invisible to the naked eye, are natural predators of slugs. Specific species, such as Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita, are available for garden and commercial use. They are easy to use and don’t take long to act.

It is worth noting that nematodes don’t only infect slugs. There are many different types and some infect plants. For example the image here is of a soya bean nematode.

How Slug Nematodes Work

  1. Nematodes on the Hunt: When applied to moist soil, nematodes actively search for slugs.
  2. Penetration: They enter the slug’s body through natural openings.
  3. Bacteria Delivery: The nematodes carry bacteria that are released inside the slug.
  4. Multiplication: The bacteria multiply rapidly, killing the slug within days.
  5. Fatal Feast: The nematode then eats the slug.
  6. Nematode Reproduction: The nematodes reproduce inside the dead slug, creating a new generation of hunters.

Benefits of Using Slug Nematodes

  • Targeted: Unlike chemical slug control, nematodes only target slugs and snails, leaving earthworms and other beneficial creatures unharmed.
  • Safe for Children and Pets: Nematodes pose no danger to children, pets, or wildlife.
  • Effective in Damp Conditions: They thrive in moist environments, perfect for combating slugs that become more active during wet weather.

The Downside To Using Nematodes

If we kill all the slugs … and some species are detrivores*, so garden friends … then other garden friends cant hunt and feed on them. That means some birds, predatory beetles, slow worms etc have less food.

The answer is not to kill all our slugs. Leave a few for the natural processes. The way I do this is to focus my efforts on my food growing areas and a boundary around that area. The rest of the garden is left without nematodes and I rely on natural predators. Any slug that crawls into the treated area is likely to become infected with nematodes, but the rest of the garden can continue naturally.

*Detrivore. Detritivores are organisms that obtain their nutrients from detritus. the effectively eat what we regard as rubbish. In the garden that includes dead plants etc and they are an important part of the recycling process. They include various invertebrates, and vertebrate. Detritivores make an essential contribution to decomposition and the nutrient cycle.

Using Slug Nematodes Effectively

  • Timing is Key: Apply nematodes in spring and early autumn when soil temperatures are between 5°C and 20°C (41°F-68°F) and the soil is moist.
  • Follow Instructions: Read and follow the specific application instructions on the product you purchase.
  • Repeat for Lasting Control: For best results, reapply nematodes every 4-6 weeks, especially during periods of high slug activity.

In most cases the nematodes come as a powder like substance which is dissolved in water, diluted and then watered on to damp soil with a watering can.

By harnessing the power of these natural predators, you can effectively control slug populations and protect your precious plants without resorting to chemicals or mythical slug control solutions.

Tag: Slug Nematodes
Image attribution.
Agricultural Research Service
, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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