Student using tracking microchips to test ‘homing instinct’ in slugs

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Can slugs really home in on their favourite garden or is it just a myth? One Harper Adams student is finding out what makes slugs pick their favourite garden for her final year dissertation.

“I’m specifically looking at horticultural pests, ones that are more commonly found in the average garden” says Aimee Tonks, studying Wildlife Conservation with Natural Resource Management. “One method of humane pest control is to put slugs and snails found in your own garden into next door’s but there’s no evidence of this actually working because of the difficulty in tracking them.”

Working in the lab and in gardens, Aimee will be tracking slugs using RFID microchips similar to the ones found in cats and dogs. The chips are injected into the side of the slugs, leaving the mollusc unharmed. The experiment will also look at how radio tracking affects different species of slug with regards mood and appetite.

Once the slugs have been released, Aimee will scan the ground and receive information on the individual slug straight to a handheld device. As well as testing reports of a ‘homing instinct’ Aimee hopes to find out exactly what attracts slugs to a particular garden and whether slugs have a set  size of zone that they like to stay inside.

Aimee hopes to start lab tests in the next few weeks before extending research to a test garden not far from Harper Adams in the New Year.

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