SLUGS and snails are not the most popular visitors to our gardens, but a new campaign aims to give them a new image.

Making Friends with Molluscs, which starts today (14), is designed to encourage gardeners to reconsider the role of these often-maligned creatures.

It’s the brainchild of Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and the Royal Horticultural Society.

There are around 150 species of slugs and snails in the UK, and only a small fraction of these pose problems for gardeners.

The majority contribute positively to the garden ecosystem in a number of ways. Molluscs feed on rotting plants, fungi, dung and even carrion, helping to recycle nitrogen and other nutrients back into the soil.

They can also clean algae off the glass of greenhouses, leaving behind their trademark trails.

Other garden visitors, including frogs, song thrushes, and ground beetles, rely on slugs and snails as a key food source. They also make up part of a hedgehog’s diet.

Heidi Mansell, engagement manager at Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, said: “Let’s credit them with the positive assistance they give to gardeners, helping to clean up decay and enriching the soil. What’s not to love?

“Let’s embrace these slimy and shelled garden pals, rather than trying to rid our gardens of them with pesticides, which can cause harm to other wildlife, too.”

You can download a free copy of Making friends with molluscs guide on the charities’ joint Wild About Gardens website