Despite their long-term reputation as garden menaces, slugs and snails will no longer be classified as pests, according to Britain’s leading garden charity, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). According to scientists from RHS, these slimy creatures are highly misunderstood and in fact play a very important role in maintaining the health of various garden ecosystems.
“The RHS is all too aware of the role that gardens have in supporting biodiversity and as such will no longer label any garden wildlife as ‘pests,’” declared RHS principal entomologist, Andrew Salisbury. “
Instead, there will be greater consideration of and focus on the role that slugs, aphids, and caterpillars play in a balanced garden ecosystem along with more popular wildlife (or animals) such as birds, hedgehogs, and frogs.”
For a long time, snails and slugs were at the top of RHS’s pest charts, with a large number of people complaining that these gastropods are destroying their crops. However, new findings show that, for example, only nine of the 44 recognized species of slugs in the UK feed upon garden plants. According to RHS, these animals should be considered nature’s recyclers, playing a fundamental role in clearing dead matter from the gardens, and constituting an important food source for birds or hedgehogs.
When slugs or snails cause unwanted damage to plants, more “ethical” modes of intervention are advised by RHS scientists, such as using mulch or planting species that gastropods will eat near prized blooms in order to attract them to these plants instead.
“We are never going to eliminate slugs, aphids, caterpillars, and other plant-munching invertebrates from our gardens – their existence after all predates the garden itself – and our plots are all the more lively and valuable because of them,” said Salisbury. “Amid the climate and biodiversity emergencies, now is the time to gracefully accept, even actively encourage, more of this life into our gardens.”
By Andrei Ionescu, Earth.com Staff Writer