Driven to distraction, T. Thurai is plotting revenge. But who – or what – has driven her to consider desperate measures?

Slugging it out in the garden

That’s it! I’m bent on revenge. It’s bad enough when vandals destroy your plants; but when they take up residence in your back-yard, something must be done. So I’m planning the perfect murder. All I have to decide is the best method. Poison or a knife in the dark?

Each year, my miniature daffodils throw up a host of promising shoots, only to have their buds bitten off at the point of blooming. Initially, the windflowers seemed immune until some uninvited gourmets developed a taste for their petals. And, after only one season, the snowdrops disappeared altogether.

The problem, of course, is slugs - voracious motor-mouths that chomp through bulbs and seedlings; slimy little Philistines that can’t tell an anemone blanda from a bellis perennis.

This year, the warm weather has given them a head start. Turn over any pot or stone and you’re bound to find a clutch of pearl-sized grey blobs lurking underneath. This is a slug nursery, an embryonic demolition gang preparing to feast on the fruits of your labour.

If this sounds like hysteria, consider the facts:

Cat-burglars – slugs can access the tiniest gap being able to stretch to 20 times their length;

Infinity teeth – as soon as one row of ‘choppers’ wears out, another moves forward to replace it;

Speed-dating – being hermaphroditic, any two slugs can mate with each other;

Egg factory – a single garden slug can lay up to 400 eggs a year;

Here, there and everywhere – only 5% of slugs are visible above ground:

Longevity – some slugs are old enough to attend primary school and their eggs can lie in the soil for years.

Slugs have plagued gardeners for centuries and, while they have their apologists, most of us just want to get rid of them. But how? Despite remedies ranging from seaweed to Epsom salts, there is no magic bullet, no solution that is 100% effective. Slugs, it seems, have the resilience of cockroaches. They are destined to outlive human-kind and populate Mars.

In fact, they are only good for one thing: revenge. Who can honestly claim that they have never catapulted the odd slug over their neighbour’s fence? (Oh, you haven’t? Well, in that case, neither have I!) Slugs lend themselves to suburban warfare of the subtlest kind; silent retribution for the kind of neighbour who – without your consent – reaches over your wall to prune your plum tree.

But there’s one snag to slug tactics. Theoretically, you could be charged with nuisance – or even criminal damage. It was the kind of problem considered by comic author A. P. Herbert in one of his spoof legal cases Cowfat v Wheedle: What is a snail? The solution, as far as I remember, was to give your garden pests a choice. Instead of propelling them over next-door’s fence, line them up on top of it and let them choose which direction to take. This permits a 50% chance of success with zero liability.

Just by their presence, slugs can provoke us to shameful acts of brutality. One of my friends disappears into the garden after dusk, armed with a torch and a pair of secateurs. Others derive a sadistic satisfaction from dropping the little demons in salt and watching them sizzle.

Being averse to the shedding of blood – even if it is green – I tried to invoke the aid of nature. I enticed hedgehogs into my garden with cat food, hoping that they would eat the slugs. Unfortunately, the hedgehogs developed an addiction to cat food. So did the slugs. I once found a hedgehog and a slug dining companionably from the same bowl. So much for natural selection!

Now I’ve snapped. Wandering around the garden a few days ago, I turned over one of last year’s beer traps to find a healthy brood of young slugs. They had not only taken up residence beneath the traps, but also inside them, sheltering from the winter rain in the dried up beer wells. It was the ultimate insult. But I’ll get my own back. I’m going to throw a party and fill those traps with beer. Come on over, boys. The drinks are on me!