Slugs are no longer being classed as pests by the RHS

The Royal Horticultural Society says slugs are 'garden visitors' playing an important role in healthy ecosystems and that they're ready for a rebrand

slug in grass
(Image credit: Getty images / DESPITE STRAIGHT LINES (Paul Williams))

The Royal Horticultural Society will no longer class slugs and snails as pests. Instead, the UK's leading gardening charity is encouraging gardeners to live and let live, and accept the presence of these creepy crawlies on their plot. 

Because of their key role in maintaining healthy eco-systems, the RHS says it's time for slugs to have some 'positive PR.' Slugs are known for chomping their way through hostas, lettuces, and other prized plants. 

But the charity says finding out how to get rid of slugs with pellets and other solutions should cease to be a priority for gardening lovers.

slug on hosta leaves

(Image credit: Getty images / esp_imaging)

Slugs no longer classed as pests

Andrew Salisbury is the principal entomologist at the Royal Horticultural Society and provides advice and research on garden entomology. In an article for The Guardian, he says that it's time we recognize the important role they play in 'planet-friendly gardening' and maintaining eco-systems.

'At the RHS, we’re working to change perceptions by avoiding using the term “pest” when it comes to gardens – and I’d encourage you to do the same,' Andrew writes. 'Amid the climate and biodiversity emergencies, now is the time to gracefully accept, even actively encourage, more of this life into our gardens.'

slug on clover leaves

(Image credit: Getty images / Josh Mildenhall / EyeEm)

He points out that slugs are misunderstood. Only nine of the 44 known species of slugs in the UK are actually likely to be eating our plants. 

Andrew Salisbury also says that the recent decline in invertebrates, or 'insect apocalypse,' calls for some positive PR for slugs, which for such a long time have been considered gardener enemy number one.

Dr Salisbury says that slugs perform a range of roles, from recycling dead plant material and animal waste to providing food for other more popular garden visitors, such as birds and hedgehogs. They also remove algae from greenhouses.

snail on geranium leaf

(Image credit: Getty images / Noor Abdul Jalil / EyeEm)

The RHS will no longer be publishing its annual list of most complained-about pests, encouraging gardeners to embrace a more eco-friendly approach and rewilding the garden instead of keeping things pristine.

If you're thinking, 'But what about my hostas?' you could let a corner of your garden grow wild while maintaining some level of 'garden visitor' control elsewhere.

Millie Hurst
Millie Hurst

Millie joined Gardeningetc in early 2021. She loves creating a vibrant display of containers in her small urban garden and is always picking up new plants at the local garden center. She's never without some fresh flowers at home and her favorite houseplant is her variegated pothos that's currently climbing its way over her bookshelves.