Have a lot of white slugs in your garden? White slugs aren’t really a breed of slug, it’s just a white coating they cover themselves with when they are disturbed or frightened off! So, are white slugs in your garden a pro or con?
- Aid in composting
- A crucial member of the food web
- Slug mucus has medicinal properties
- Feeding activity damages fruit/vegetables/plants
- Numbers increase rapidly
- Unscenic dry slug mucus
Also read: Do Hummingbirds Like Hibiscus Plants?
What Are White Slugs?
A slug is a shell-less mollusk, that is land dwelling. They resemble a snail, except minus the shell! Slugs and snails are not new to the garden, they are considered pests.
They can do considerable damage for their size. The Gray Netted slug (Deroceras reticulatum) is no exception. When this slug feels threatened it covers itself in a milky white mucus, which is how it acquired its name, the white slug.
The white slug is only one of three slugs that cover themselves with mucus when it feels scared. This slug is often mistaken for the Ghost Slug, the Worm Slug, and the Hedgehog Slug.
How To Identify A White Slug?
While you may think that all slugs look alike, this is not so, take a closer look and you might note a few key differences.
Common Names: Gray Garden Slug, White Garden Slug
Body Color: Ranges in color from cream to light gray
Size: While the white slug only grows to 2 inches long, other types of slugs can grow to 10 inches long
Scientific name: Deroceras reticulatum
Color: They have a pale body in shades of cream, beige, grayish, light pink, and other off-white colors, with a brown-like mantle
Slime: No other slug in the deroceras species can turn their clear body slime to milky white when stressed or disturbed
Areas Inhabited: USA: Alabama, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Washington. Wisconsin and Wyoming
Canada: British Columbia, Newfoundland, Ontario, Quebec
Asia: Sri Lanka
Australasia: New Zealand
Britain: Leicestershire, Rutland
Pros of Having White Slugs In Your Garden
Having white slugs in your garden isn’t always a bad thing and there are more than one reason to keep them around! There are some direct or indirect advantages to having these insects stay in your garden. Take a look at all of these reasons why you shouldn’t be too quick to evict white slugs!
Just like earthworms, slugs are an essential element in every garden or any other landscape for that matter.
White slugs are omnivores, herbivores, carnivores, and detritivores, meaning they eat anything and are capable of composting virtually any material in your garden!
Not only will these insects compost just about any material in your garden and break it down to usable minerals and nutrients, they will also compost astounding amounts of material in your garden. This has the overall effect of improving the soil profile in your garden.
Also, slugs are capable of turning the soil and increasing the air spaces between the molecules. Thus aiding your plants by allowing air to reach the roots of the plant. They can also help to eat most of the unwanted insects from the soil.
Balancing the Food Web
Slugs are occasionally predatory insect that also happens to be prey for a wide range of insects, birds, and reptiles. Hence, their presence acts as a crucial element to maintain the natural food web in your garden.
Slugs can eat a wide range of fungi as well, perhaps sparing your plants from disease. Also, if you want to invite some predatory insects and birds to your gardens like Rove beetles, Fireflies, Ground beetles, and Ducks.
The presence of white slugs also invites starlings and other birds which can reduce the presence of other unwanted crawling insects that may be damaging your plants.
You shouldn’t be too irked by the slime secreted by the white slug! If anything it could be a natural remedy for a few problems you are facing.
Various branches of medicine such as dermatology, pharmacology, toxicology, and parasitology make use of information from studying slug mucus. But, we do not need to go that far, you yourself can benefit from slug mucus.
The mucous material contains glycolic acid, allantoin, elastin, and osteopontin as well as natural peptides. These materials all help in maintaining healthy skin by reducing wrinkles, healing skin, and helping to ensure healthy skin.
Apart from this slug mucus is also applicable in medicine as it has antiviral and antimicrobial properties! It exhibits antiviral properties against measles (Morbillivirus) and it is antimicrobial against Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
Cons of Having White Slugs In Your Garden
It’s all roses when you have white slugs in the garden. Despite the pros, don’t forget that slugs in general are garden pests that can be problematic for your plants. There are a couple of problems that come with slugs, especially when their numbers are through the roof!
Damage to Fruits/Vegetables
White slugs can be voracious eaters. They can eat approximately twice their body weight. Multiply this by the number of slugs and nights they spend in your garden and it comes up to a lot!
Even though this sounds like a little bit, a few bites taken from your fruits or vegetables make it unpalatable. Furthermore, evident feeding marks left on the leaves of your plant make it look severely unappealing.
In their search for plant matter high in starch and sugars, they feed on the apical meristem of the younger shoots, thin tender leaves, and even seedlings.
Slugs are particularly damaging to some economically important crops as well. This includes tobacco, legumes, mustard, cabbage, lettuce, artichoke, and endive. In high populations, they can completely defoliate the plant.
NOTE- Slug infestations can cause damage on a large scale. Slugs cause a loss of 53 tons of wheat worth $34 million!
White Slug Overpopulation
Dealing with a slug or two in the garden is not much of a problem is quite easy to manage. But, a dozen or two slugs in your garden could prove difficult to eradicate, not to mention the fact that there could be a lot more on their way.
Slugs can lay an average of 40 eggs (close to 500 eggs in a year) multiply this by the number of white slugs in your garden and you could be dealing with a severe infestation in your garden!
To make matters worse, slugs are hermaphrodites. This means that each adult slug bears both male and female reproductive organs. Thus, in difficult times they can even fertilize themselves.
This adds more difficulty to managing slug populations! Eggs are hidden well in clusters in the soil, under wooden planks, or in other moist areas in your garden. There are a few methods to get rid of slugs but almost all of them require effort!
Unappealing Shiny Slime Mucus
If you’ve encountered slugs in your garden before, you are probably aware of the first sign telling of their presence. It’s the slimy mucus that leaves a trail of glossy or shiny material over the lawn, pathways, and possibly your plants as well.
This shiny trail showing the navigational paths of the slugs is not very appealing to look at. Plus, it could be embarrassing to show people that you have a slug problem!
Also, another con of these unscenic patterns is that they are not that easy to get rid of. This could be a problem when you are trying to get rid of it in a rush.
You can get rid of the mucus by throwing baking soda or vinegar and then scrubbing it again using soapy water.
How to Get Slug Mucus Off Hands
- If you get slug mucus on your hands, you should wash them with water immediately. Instead, first, let your hands dry.
- Then rub them together till the slime turns to rubbery balls.
- If the mucus persists, pour some borax powder onto your hands and rub them to get your hands clean.
- Alternatively, you can mix a combination of salt and flour.
- After this, you can finish off with soap and water.
How to Manage White Slug Populations (Including Eradication)
If a great number of slugs have taken up residence in your garden, you will want to lower their numbers for the sake of your plants and garden’s appearance.
If you have a lot of slugs in your garden and aren’t too fond of the idea of killing them, there are no-kill methods of getting rid of them. These work by dissuading them from wandering around in your garden.
Make Your Garden Unsuitable for Breeding
White slugs enjoy moist conditions, which is why they mostly come out at night! Moist soil and leaf matter, under wooden boards/planks, and any other damp and dark hideaways would be where they lay their egg clusters.
You can remove their ability to breed so much by making a few changes in the garden.
Remove fallen leaves, churn garden soil regularly, and remove any hidden dark areas. These steps could prove to be helpful in reducing slug egg hatching.
Catch and Release
There are a number of ways by which you can catch the white slugs in your garden. You can leave sugary fruit or food items out for them to feast on and then wait.
If you do this at night, you are very likely to catch quite a few slugs. This is a humane way of getting rid of slugs in your garden. Also, note that this method is best for when you have just a few slugs to take care of in the garden.
You can easily catch them, place them in a container and release them in an open bush area.
Slugs are extremely active at night, which is a good thing since you have a definite chance of finding them in your garden at this time.
Go out at night with a torch light and catch the slugs. Perhaps by looking at and following the shiny trails, you can find a few. Continue doing this for a few nights and this will greatly aid in countering your slug infestation.
NOTE- The slugs you have caught can be released elsewhere, where they can’t damage anyone else’s garden.
There are a few fruits that slugs love eating. Hence, placing them around your garden would draw them away from your plants, fruits, or vegetables.
Slugs are attracted to citrus rinds and skin (grapefruits, lemon, and orange) as well as melon and hence these can be used to lure slugs out and away.
You can continue to place these baits around your garden every day to avoid damage to your plants. Or else you can use this method to catch the slugs and release them elsewhere.
Wipe Out Trails
Did you know slugs use those shiny mucus trails to navigate your garden and remember where they have been? Also, they can be useful in the mating season for slugs to find each other.
Wiping out mucus trails can be very helpful if making slugs are confused, and it slows their damage because they don’t have their usual route to follow!
One way of getting rid of white slugs is by getting rid of them permanently, that is to kill them! Although it is not the kindest way, severe infestations call for severe actions, especially if they are doing more harm than good.
Manual Nocturnal Hunting
You can go out at night with a torch, spot the slugs and kill them on the spot! It may seem inhumane but then again slugs can be voracious eaters and terrible garden pests!
You use a sharp object to impale these soft-bodied creatures. Again, this method is best for eradicating slugs if there are just a few. Using it for juvenile slugs can prove to be difficult seeing as they are much smaller and have more places to hide.
Bowl of Beer/Yeast
Slugs are highly attracted to beer, well actually it’s the smell of the yeast in the beer that attracts the slugs! Any food substance rich in yeast or sugar will surely make a tempting proposition for the slugs in your garden.
Place a shallow dish and fill it with beer. Make sure to use fresh beer as stale beer will not be that appetizing to the slugs. The slugs will gladly drink the beer. After a while, the slugs will become overwhelmed by the amount of sugar and alcohol and fall into the dish and drown.
This is a relatively easy way to get rid of slugs as you are guaranteed results, and that too, on a large scale.
Natural Kill Methods
The natural methods of controlling and eradicating white slugs consist of using natural predators to catch, eat, and reduce their populations. So, what eats slugs, quite a few garden-dwelling creatures?
Examples of natural slug predators are frogs, toads, glow worms, and nematodes.
White lugs are actually just regular slug that coats themselves with white mucus when it is threatened. Despite what people say about slugs and their relatives the snail, there are some perks of having white slugs in your garden.
The pros of white slugs in the garden are helping in composting, contributing to the food web, and medicinal properties.
However, some cons of white slugs in your garden are highly damaging feeding activity, rapid number increase, and unscenic dry slug mucus around the garden!
So, it’s up to you if you want them in your garden or not. Perhaps you just want to lower their numbers in your garden.
Are white slugs poisonous?
Although they look odd and different, white slugs are not poisonous to humans at all.
Is a White Snail Actually White?
No, white snails are not actually white. The white color is not permanent and there are a couple of slug types that can emit this white mucus.