THE slimy fortunes of slugs in Bucks have rocketed this summer due to an increase in showers, a survey says.

A national slug watch programme, which included monitoring at a farm in Great Missenden, showed record numbers of slugs appearing in July when usually they would have been wiped out by the heat.

And Bayer CropScience, the crop protection company carrying out the programme, says the persistent rain has seen an invasion of the moist creatures.

The site in Great Missenden has even seen a sharp change in the species of slugs present due to increased rainfall.

In July last year, the programme failed to find any slugs in two fields at the farm. This July there was an average of 34 per slug trap. A total of three traps per field were laid out by researchers.

Dr Richard Meredith, biologist for Bayer CropScience, said: "We would have got nothing per trap last July, but it has been very, very different this year and it has allowed the slugs to breed and survive better.

"Nationally the trend is even greater."

Dr Meredith said the farmer at the site had to keep tabs on the slug population.

He said: "He has to keep an eye on the slugs unless there is particular dry weather like 2003 when it was very, very hot."

Dr Meredith said the normally dominant grey field slug, or Deroceras reticulatum, had been invaded at the Great Missenden site by the black garden slug, or Arion.

This is because the garden slug relies more on wet conditions and has revelled in the weather this summer.

He said: "The Arion species has started to become dominant. They are more affected by moisture and so they are more prevalent. When you get more rainfall they tend to increase their dominance in the field as well."

The damage slugs can cause to gardens and crops is often underestimated and can be devastating, said Dr Meredith. He said people needed to be more aware.

He said: "It doesn't take many mouthfalls to destroy a crop when seeds have just germinated.

"If they start feeding on potatoes or sprout buttons below ground then it can rob the quality from the vegetables.

"It becomes such a headache to sort your damaged potatoes from the others that you can get your crop rejected by the supermarkets."