Do hogs eat slugs?
10th April 2022 at 12:01 pm #36433
Every time I read an article about green gardening it says to encourage hogs as they eat slugs. I have never seen a hog eat a slug, in fact, they happily munch hog food alongside each other…
The only proper reference that I can find is from Pat Morris’ 1983 Whittet book where he quotes Yalden, who suggests that slugs are not a regular item of diet.. although he does go on the say that you should not use slug pellets because the hogs will eat the slugs for you.
Is this simply a self perpetuating myth or does anybody know of any more recent research about this rather than casual observation?10th April 2022 at 12:50 pm #36436
Yes, hogs definitely do eat slugs. But, they don’t eat those big ones which tend to congregate around feeding areas on damp/wet nights – a bit big for their tiny mouths! They eat mostly small and medium ones. I have frequently seen a hog eating medium sized slugs which they rolled first, presumably to get rid of some of the slime – and not because they were desperate for anything else to eat, as I’ve seen suggested elsewhere – there was other food available.
The small slugs, which are probably eaten the most, can be tiny and would be eaten whilst the hogs were foraging in the undergrowth, so not easy for humans to see. Apparently it is those small slugs which do most damage to living plants, so useful for the hogs to eat those ones. I believe the large slugs are more involved in the breakdown of dead plant material. But I have heard reports from gardeners who say that their slug problems have disapeared after hedgehogs appeared on the scene.
(Using slug pellets/or any other kind of unnatural slug control it seems, whilst not only being bad for wildlife in general, apparently just leaves an opening for the neighbouring slugs to move in – and so the cycle goes on.)
However, I don’t think slugs are hogs favourite food which are more likely to be beetles, earthworms, caterpillars – which most humans have probably not seen them eat either! I have many times seen a beetle scampering by whilst the hogs have been eating out of their bowls. I suppose it’s easier to eat things that don’t move, given the chance!
I have seen hogs catching earthworms, though (also even when other food was available). The earthworms tend to come partly out of the ground, the hog grabs one and reverses rapidly to pull it out of the hole. So if anyone sees a hog rapidly reversing it may have caught an earthworm (the actual worm might be hidden by vegetation). Rats also eat earthworms, by the way, and are possibly even better at catching them than hogs are.18th April 2022 at 7:45 pm #36613
Thanks Nic.. stands to reason.. I go out regularly at night killing slugs with a knife and often see my hogs eating worms but could well miss the small slugs.. but it is the big slugs and snails that killed my tomatoes and almost my potatoes last year. Plently of small ones though but they seem to do less damage where I do catch them in the act.
.. but I have always had hogs and always had slugs and snails and, unless I go out at night with my knife, I cannot grow anything tender in my garden… just have to be careful not to damage the newts which can look surprisingly similar.
My record was over 1000 in a week!19th April 2022 at 10:59 am #36624
As an aside, in my experience, slugs are somewhat territorial and if you catch the culprit the plant has chance to recover. After my 1000 in a week, my nightly counts dropped from the hundreds down to 20 and then 5 or less and I was OK for the rest of that year until the next generation move in and even then I dont get the vast numbers that I did my first year.
This would fit with experiments that show that if you throw a marked snail over the fence, it will return a considerable distance.19th April 2022 at 1:20 pm #36630
Hi Mark UK
To me your description of your (rather barbaric! Definitely don’t want to be slicing up newts by mistake!) way of dealing with slugs reinforces the idea that if you create a ‘vacuum’ of slugs others will move in.
I don’t do much to deter slugs and don’t seem to have anything like the problems it sounds as if you have. Nature has a way of sorting these things out if not interfered with too much.
I think you will find that it’s widely accepted that the large slugs are useful in the garden and that if they didn’t exist we would have much more slowly rotting plant material to deal with. Quote from Carol Klein (link below): “Quite honestly, if we didn’t have slugs and snails we would all be knee-deep in debris and rubbish because that is what they do: they chomp through it.”
Maybe some frogs in the garden would help the hedgehogs. Or apparently ducks are good (if your garden is a bit larger).20th April 2022 at 6:39 pm #36646
I like my newts, I watch them and would never hurt one.. but they do eat all my tadpoles so I only have adult frogs and toads.
But I don’t agree.. I have been doing this for 10 years and once I have reduced the numbers I am OK for the rest of the growing season.. pretty well there now. If I see something with damage I go out and deal with the culprit.. and that is usually sufficient. The small slugs do make holes in my salads but it is the big ones that destroy them and even my spuds and tomatoes… And plenty of worms pull my leaves and rotting plant material into the top layer of the soil.. plus I have compost bins. Now ducks.. that would work but my garden is really very small and I can only grow a small quantity of plants.. so sacrificial losses are not on.. I am also on clay which is sympathetic to slugs and my first spring, they took everything!… my last garden was on sand and they were not a problem.
But plenty of hogs and, hopefully, more on the way as there were a couple mating just outside the patio window last week.20th April 2022 at 6:58 pm #36647
And my girlfriend would agree with you… she collects hers and takes them to some public open land the other side of a major road.22nd April 2022 at 7:22 pm #36690
I have remembered that Stef recommended some stuff called ‘strulch’, which is apparently really good at keeping slugs away. If I remember correctly she grows dahlias which are usually a favourite of slugs.
Might be more pleasant and give some of the good slugs a chance to do their good work in your garden, as well as helping the plants in other ways.23rd April 2022 at 5:43 pm #36713
You won’t convince me.. experience wins out.. have tried copper tape, grit, coffee grounds, beer traps and wool. I like the idea of strulch but expensive. Meanwhile, I will continue to compost my slugs.
.. much enjoyed the chat! Cheers26th April 2022 at 7:55 pm #36781
Looks like this is answered already but yes hogs do eat slugs but not commonly from my experience – they’ll ignore them alot of the time and only rarely will they go for one and then it’s quite grisly as it’s not quick. Seems slugs are not top of the menu as it were, but they’ll do in a pinch.
As a random Did you Know – turns out Tortoises eat slugs too. So there you are.27th April 2022 at 6:57 pm #36799
But my point remains that while hogs might eat the odd slug if they don’t find anything better.. they are not going to solve your slug problems!.. and hogs do prefer the beetles that are the main slug predators!28th April 2022 at 11:03 am #36810
That is a common misperception. Hogs will eat slugs even if there is other food available. It probably varies from one hog to another how much interest they will show in eating slugs. But they don’t tend to eat the large ones which often gather around hog food on wet/damp nights – that has led some people to think that they ignore all slugs, which is not correct. They eat the smaller ones. Some of the very small slugs are not much bigger than a pinhead when not stretched out, so not easy to see.28th April 2022 at 12:15 pm #36812
Nic is absolutely correct about the eating habits of slugs etc.
Strulch is definitely the way to go. It may be expensive but only needs replacing every 3 years if not disturbed. I have large dahlia beds which are left in the ground each year. As soon as I started using it the slugs stopped coming and I have no issues at all.
Not even going to go into the way you are killing your slugs..
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