The public’s help is being sought in innovative approach to longstanding problem

Families are being recruited as ‘slug scouts’ during half term as scientists work to fight back against the leading pest found in farmers’ fields.

Families are being asked to collect the grey field slug

Families are being asked to collect the grey field slug

Children can request a free kit to trap and collect slugs from dark, moist spots in their gardens or from farmers’ fields before posting them to researchers at the John Innes Centre (JIC) in Norwich.

The special mission will help experts develop novel methods of pest control, providing farmers and growers with an alternative to using chemical slug pellets.

More slugs needed

Schools have proved an enormous help in the past, according to JIC, with pupils teaming up to build special ‘slimeries’ where slugs gather and can be easily collected and sent in to benefit science. But more slugs are needed to continue the work, which is part of the UK government-funded SLIMERS (Strategies Leading to Improved Management and Enhanced Resilience Against Slugs) project.

“We received a terrific response when we put out calls for help last year,” said Tom Allen-Stevens, the founder of the British On-Farm Innovation Network (BOFIN), which provides the kits.

“Our researchers now need more slugs and we’re looking for special skills from those who volunteer to help this worthy cause. What we need are grey field slugs (Deroceras reticulatum) – the ones that really give farmers a headache. So we’re calling on those who can identify the right ones to send them in.

“The weather might be a washout, but that means slugs will be on the move and putting the nation’s food supply under threat. Isn’t it better that these pernicious pests are gathered up to help the quest for new ways to control them?”

Those who sign up to become a slug scout will receive a free pack, including full instructions on how to set up a slimery, a slug identification guide, plastic containers to place the harvested slugs, postage-paid envelopes to send them into JIC or Crop Health and Protection, tweezers to pick up the slimy pests, and a BOFIN pin badge, pen and leaflet.

The research being carried out will improve slug control, reduce pesticide usage and make sure more of the crops grown by UK farmers end up on consumers’ plates, JIC explained.