Slugs and snails and puppy dogs' tails

by James Alexander-Sinclair

Every year the RHS publishes a list of popular pests: popular in that they are the ones about whom the RHS entomologists have had the most enquiries.

SlugEvery year the RHS publishes a list of popular pests: popular in that they are the ones about whom the RHS entomologists have had the most enquiries. Top of the charts this year are slugs and snails (everybody's bête noir) followed by the harlequin ladybird. The rest are the usual suspects: vine weevils (No.3 on the list), lily beetles (No.9) etc.

No matter how depressed we may get with cushion scale (No.4=) or the depredations of berberis sawfly (No.7) there is always a silver lining. There are worse pests out there which we, in Britain, will never have to deal with in our gardens.

For example in Trinidad there is a large ant (about 1cm long) called a bachak that will (along with a few hundred friends) quickly demolish a garden. They even eat onions and would almost certainly treat any of our ants (No.4=) as cocktail snacks.

We are unlikely to stumble across the giant Palouse earthworm. Though harmless - and endangered - it can grow to be about a metre long which is enough to give anyone a bit of a shock (sadly, this Palouse earthworm appears to have had a bit of a spade-related accident).

In Australia you are much more likely to stumble across a snake than a rosemary beetle (No.6) while quietly rumbling about in the shrubbery. As Australia is home to the ten most venomous snakes in the world then gardening can get a bit hazardous.

Rabbits (No. 8) can do a lot of damage but at least they only run, jump and dig - chipmunks can also climb so are even trickier to keep out. They may score highly on the cuteness scale but that is not much use if you are trying to grow vegetables. (They also, if Alvin and the Chipmunks are to be believed, have really irritating voices). In the same bracket come groundhogs - who can have about five burrows, each one requiring the excavation of about a cubic metre of soil - nearly a skipful in total. Enough to make a complete mess of the average garden.

And finally the idea of finding this tucking into your brassicas is enough to make most gardeners greet the next passing cypress aphid (No. 10) with civil words and offers of a cup of tea.

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Gardeners' World Web User 19/05/2008 at 18:39

Could anyone tell me what sticks the two top growing leaves on plants together,it happened to my budleia a few weeks ago and today when watering I noticed it again on my large seedem,the one with the large heads of small flowers the butterflies like. I cut off effected parts.

Gardeners' World Web User 29/05/2008 at 20:28

I've just been outside weeding my raised beds and noticed a huge number of yellow casings around one of the beds C(containing brassicas) the shells/casings are now empty and range in size from a couple of mm to 1cm + they are very soft and sort of rubbery, I'm new to veg gardening and can't find a picture in any books, what are they and do I need to panic???

Gardeners' World Web User 04/08/2008 at 18:39

Could some one tell me if my honeysuckle begica is dead.It flowered lovely in the early summer then with out warning the leaves went yellow and the flowers dropped off.I inherited it with the house 6 yrs ago. I have cut it right back.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:30

I have a honeysuckle which is infected with what I thought was whitefly, but these flying insects with the same characteristics as whitefly are tiny, elongated, green insects (they are not greenfly). Any ideas?