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Deterring Slugs and Flies from a Garden

A couple of frequently asked questions are ‘How do I deal with slugs in my garden in an environmentally safe way?’ and ‘How can I naturally deter flies from my garden?’

To address the first question; 

Slugs are a ubiquitous group of terrestrial molluscs of which there are over 40 different species in the British Isles. 

it’s commonly assumed that all slugs are harmful plant pests, whereas the truth though is that only a small number of species feed on and damage plants.

However, it’s the damage caused by these plant eating slugs that often results in many other species of slugs being killed, either poisoned with non-selective toxic slug pellets, drowned in beer traps or squashed under a gardener’s boot.

And this indiscriminate targeting of all slugs will likely be detrimental to a healthy garden ecosystem for a number of reasons. 

Primarily, eradicating slugs from a garden removes a vital food source for many beneficial creatures that exist further up a healthy garden’s food chain, creatures such as ground dwelling beetles, centipedes, small mammals, frogs, toads, blackbirds and hedgehogs. 

It also means that slugs such as the Leopard slug, which is a natural predator of other slugs will die.

In addition, many other species of slugs that feed on dead organic matter, fungi and algae will suffer. These slugs are vital in the natural composting process that sustains a healthy garden ecosystem, since their feeding breaks down dead and decaying organic matter, recycling it back into the ground where soil micro-organisms will release the essential nutrients for root uptake and healthy new plant growth.

So, for environmental reasons and safeguarding a garden’s natural biodiversity, the best method for dealing with slugs where plants are being damaged, is not one that kills them, but one that effectively deters slugs from plants. 

Besides many well-known home remedies that could be used as environmentally safe deterrents and barriers against slugs, such as crushed eggshells, coffee grinds and sharp grit, there’s also many non-toxic proprietary products that are now available. 

And anyone wishing to check the effectiveness of their chosen barrier or deterrent product, simply encircle a slug or snail with a ring of it, then watch how they react.

The second question, ‘How can I naturally deter flies from my garden?’ is a bit trickier to answer, since there are many different types of flies that have many different roles to play within a healthy garden ecosystem.

Whilst some of the flies will be plant pests and others will be predators of other invertebrates, a significant number of flies will be important for the natural waste disposal and recycling processes that occur within a garden.

And it’s most likely that these waste-disposal fly species will be the ones that cause most nuisance to us within a home and garden as they land on our food to feed, or search for suitable areas to lay their eggs. 

For the common Housefly, the attraction will primarily be decaying plant material, which will include leftover food from our meals, over-ripe or discarded fruit and vegetables, or their peelings from the kitchen. 

For the Blowflies, it’ll be dead animal tissue that attracts them to lay their eggs on, which will include any remains of meat and fish dishes within our kitchen waste.

So, it’s inevitable that household waste bins, particularly the wheelie bins that are only emptied every fortnight, will emit the smells that attract flies into a garden and that they’ll be providing the perfect location for both Houseflies and Blowflies to lay their eggs in and for their maggots to feed and develop.

Naturally deterring these flies from coming into a garden to feed and lay their eggs, will ultimately depend on masking or eliminating the smells that attract the flies. 

And to try and achieve this we’d need to ensure that all food waste is sealed within airtight bags before placing it in the waste bins. Also, spraying a fragrant natural plant oil within the bin each time a bag is added to mask any of the decay odours. 

Washing the bin thoroughly after it’s been emptied will also help to reduce any residual smells that could attract the flies. 

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