I plead guilty to theft and mass slaughter. But it was I believe, as I am sure all master criminals argue, a crime in a very good cause. My theft? Slug pellets. My crime. The massacre of slugs, snails and if they were guilty of eating all the plants in my troughs, puppy dogs’ tails too.
The pellets were the remnants of a load of bait that John had spread in the autumn to deal with the problem of slugs on a field that had had rape in as a crop last year. Slugs have not been a huge issue this year as it was drier than previously when the crop was sown, but there were still enough slugs in a field of winter wheat to cause a problem. And there were plenty of them now in the stone troughs I have in the farmyard to cause me a problem. Slugs and snails had decimated many of the plants I had put in to provide a good show of flowers.
So having used up the last of last year’s pellets, I went on the hunt in the locked spray shed to see if I could find any more. My luck was in and I managed to pinch enough pellets to massacre the voracious gastropods.
The next morning I was amazed to find scores of slimy dead slugs and snails in the troughs. I had no idea there were so many of the greedy things. I have binned all my victims as I do not want birds or hedgehogs to eat their poisoned remains and suffer the consequences of ingesting metaldehyde, the toxic ingredient of slug pellets.
We used to have a chronic slug problem in certain parts of the farmhouse. I laid salt trails, put down pellets and even used copper tape which slugs apparently will not crawl over. But still occasionally came down in the middle of the night to find some of the horrible things having a party on the kitchen tiles.
The problem we discovered was under the old wooden floors in the two front rooms. When we replaced them we found a foot gap to bare damp earth. A slug heaven. No wonder the carpets used to be almost luminescent some mornings with slug trails. Concrete floors solved that one. Now a slug trail is something of a rarity in the house but emergent flies are not.
Many years ago we planted a vine outside the porch. It grows into and across the glass porch roof by an access hole in the brickwork. Each year we have an abundant crop of grapes. But overwinter the vine must be a haven for hibernating flies. And each spring we suffer the consequences with the nasty things crawling out when the porch warms up in the sunshine and then flying into the house. It is fly swats at dawn each morning. A physical thwack much more of a satisfying final solution than chemicals. or insecticides.