A mild, frost free winter followed by a warm spring have created a slug baby boom, with 80 million of them more likely to be born, according to experts.
Jude Beherall, from Neudorff, said: “A mild winter with minimal frosts will produce a glut of slug eggs and, once hatched, these young slugs will be looking to feed their voracious appetites and will head straight for the tender foliage of young plants.
“We are advising gardeners to be fully prepared with slug controls at the ready to ensure their hard work in the garden is preserved.”
Average temperatures over winter of 2016/2017 were 5C, the temperature that usually wakes slugs from hibernation. The winter heatwave means the slugs haven’t headed off for their usual kip, instead working hard on building up a bumper crop of baby slugs.
“Last year’s wet but very mild conditions mean unfortunately we’re in for more of the same,” said the charity Buglife’s Paul Hetherington.
“The conditions were perfect for slugs to remain active for a longer period, meaning they were eating more and breeding faster and as a result the little ones were maturing at a quicker rate.”
To make matters worse, Paul said that the shrinking numbers of birds, beetles and Hedgehogs (the natural predators of the slugs) are also helping increase their numbers.
BugLife is urging gardeners not to make the matter worse by trying to kill slugs with poisonous pellets, as the poisoned slugs are then killing off the predators that feast on them.
“There are a number of more natural ways to get rid of slugs that do not also involve killing animals all the way up the food chain,” Mr Hetherington said.
Instead they recommend using copper tape or some plants you are prepared to sacrifice to counter slugs naturally.
“I use fuschias in my own garden – slugs hate fuschias, so it’s a good idea to plant them surrounding plants that slugs usually destroy, like hostas,” he advised.