It’s a pest! We give some pointers to getting rid of snails, mice, rats and winter moth caterpillars over the winter.

We’re all keen to get in out of the cold and damp of winter weather. Hang up those wet clothes, crank up the heating, eat something nice and have a good night’s sleep. It’s understandable, then, that many pests behave in a similar way. This provides us with a great opportunity to seek them out and get rid of them.

Snails are a pest

They like to hibernate in cracks and crevices, between pots or pieces of slate. No, they aren’t doing your garden any harm at present but they certainly will, come spring. Check these quiet places and get rid of any snails you find, using your own preferred method.

A wall of snails. Slugs and snails. Pest

A wall of snails. ©Andy Rammy and licensed for re-use under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence.

Mice are a pest

Mice can cause a great deal of damage in the garden by digging up and eating root vegetables, bulbs, corms, seeds and seedlings. They particularly like crocus corms and tulip bulbs, especially in their first winter after planting. Look out for holes in the soil where mice have dug down.

In cold weather mice spend time in greenhouses and cold frames, where they can be very destructive. They also like garages and sheds, especially where there are stored fruit, such as apples.

Many gardeners use baited traps to rid themselves of mice. The most successful bait is a little peanut butter, a raisin or some chocolate. Cheese only really works in cartoons! Place your trap at the edge of the greenhouse, shed or garage as mice tend to keep to the edges. They are also more likely to eat the bait if it is slightly sheltered so put a ‘roof’ over it like a piece of bent cardboard. Wear rubber gloves when handling traps and dispose of corpses in a sealed bag in the rubbish bin.

Decking and rats

For rats, decking can provide a lovely sheltered place to raise a family. It’s warm, dry and may be near a bird feeder or an accessible rubbish bin.

If you think you’ve got rats, get in touch with your local council’s pest control officer.

Winter moth caterpillar

‘Winter moth’ describes a number of moth species whose wingless adult females emerge from pupae in the soil and crawl up tree trunks to lay eggs on branches between November and April. When the caterpillars hatch they feed on the leaves, blossom and developing fruitlets, weakening the plant and affecting crop yield and quality.

Place a sticky grease band or barrier glue around the trunk and tree stake in October to intercept the females (and so reduce the number of eggs laid). Make sure it’s kept sticky and clear of anything that might help the female moth over the barrier until mid-April.


Grease bands applied in 1906 (but no longer maintained) to prevent insect attack to Lime Tree Avenue, Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire. © Mick Garratt and reused under Thanks to the Geograph project.

Whatever the weather this winter, taking action against pests now can only help.