1 Slugs are important pests in many agricultural crops and potential biological control agents are being studied as an alternative to molluscicides. Carabid beetles may be able to reduce slug populations, but their role as control agents may be influenced by the presence of alternative prey.
2 Attacks on the pest slug Deroceras reticulatum (Müller) by the carabid beetles Pterostichus madidus (Fabricius) and Nebria brevicollis (Fabricius) were investigated in the presence of alternative prey (earthworms and Calliphora fly larvae). Consumption of slug eggs and aphids was also investigated.
3 All five prey types were consumed to varying degrees during the experiments. Both beetle species showed a significant preference for Calliphora larvae over slugs. Pterostichus madidus showed a significant preference for earthworms over slugs. No preference was shown between earthworms or Calliphora larvae by P. madidus females or N. brevicollis. However, P. madidus males showed a significant preference for Calliphora larvae over worms. Pterostichus madidus showed no preference between slug eggs and aphids; N. brevicollis showed a significant preference for aphids over slug eggs.
4 The results from this study indicate that generalist beetles will often attack other prey in preferences to adult slugs. Slugs may not be preferred because of their mucus. Other prey items occur frequently in arable soils and generalist carabids may ignore slugs altogether and may only feed on them when slug density is high or other prey are unavailable.