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Home Forums Champions’ chat Slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails………… Reply To: Slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails…………

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Hi Hedgie Lover

Slugs, hedgehogs and parasites have been living together for a very long time. Hedgehogs build up a certain sort of ‘resistance’ to lungworm, etc. and it only becomes a problem if it gets bad enough to cause symptoms. Also, whether they get infected, at all, with lungworm, is not only dependant on how many slugs they eat, but on whether any of the slugs they eat are infected in the first place. I quote from Pat Morris’ book ‘Hedgehogs’ re. hedgehogs having lungworm parasites:

” …. It’s perfectly natural and hard to avoid. Sometimes infestations may be sufficiently severe as to result in death, but normally a hedgehog carries relatively few of these parasites and the only evidence is their microscopic eggs in the hedgehog’s droppings…..”

In other words, normally hedgehogs may be carrying small amounts of lungworm parasite and still be symptomless. If a hedgehog develops symptoms, i.e. is wheezing etc. then is the time to consult a hedgehog carer, because that hedgehog may need treatment.

In any event it simply would not be practical to remove all the slugs in one garden, let alone in a hedgehog’s entire range and the alternative may in the end be found to be worse for them.

Hedgehogs main natural diet consists of beetles and caterpillars. Hence the shiny black bits in their normal poos. Slugs actually are a very small proportion of it.

But if we are trying to have wildlife friendly gardens for the benefit of the hedgehogs, then who are we to say that a certain species should not be in it. All these species would have been quite happily co-existing before we came along and started interfering. Wildlife friendly gardens eventually achieve a balance and all species are necessary for that including and some may say, especially, slugs. Slugs are all part of nature’s rich tapestry.

The slugs which normally visit food bowls are mostly the large ones. Those are also ones useful in the composting process. If we didn’t have slugs, we would probably be knee deep in decaying plant matter. They help to speed up the process. And I don’t only mean in compost heaps, but also when plants naturally drop leaves in the garden.

The slugs the hedgehogs eat are the smaller ones, which are more likely to eat your plants. Good luck trying to find those to remove – many of them are quite tiny! Best leave it to the hogs. In my experience the hogs just ignore the large slugs which sometimes visit their food bowls (mostly when it is raining or has been) and seem perfectly happy to share a bowl with them.

If you really don’t like them visiting the food station, perhaps you could put up some sort of slug barrier around it, which the hogs could easily get over. For instance slugs are thought not to like copper and you can buy copper ‘tape’ to put round flower pots, etc. – perhaps you could adapt something like that. They are also thought not to like travelling over sheeps wool.

These are things which you could try before resorting to putting them in the bin.