A damp day here yesterday and several of these out and about:
I don’t know much about slugs and so I did a quick bit of research. There are 40 species in the UK of which only a small handful are considered pests. The rest quietly go about their business in the food chain – they are a vital food source for badgers, birds especially thrushes, hedgehogs and slow worms. This Large Red Slug above was a very large thing indeed and would, I’m sure, be a very substantial snack. However, apparently the mucous is not very tasty and thrushes are often seen to wipe the slug on the grass before eating it.
Slugs have evolved from snails and several species of slug still have a piece shell within their body. They produce this mucous so that their tender body can slide over things without getting damaged but also it acts as a navigational system for them so that they can follow old slime trails to return to places they want to go.
They like days such as yesterday when was warm and wet but when its hot and dry they hide out in crevices and holes during the day because they don’t have protection against drying out, having lost their shells as they evolved. If it is a prolonged spell of lovely weather, they can form a hard shell around themselves and wait it out.
We were also looking at some of their main predators yesterday:
A small colony of slow worms has developed under one of the reptile sampling squares that we have placed around the margins of the fields. They live down the holes at the bottom of the photo and reverse down these holes if disturbed for too long. These are legless lizards rather than snakes and its a female nearest the holes with a stripe down her back and more greyish males behind her. Love seeing them all there.
I will be making a point of trying to spot different species of slug here now – I have a field guide to them (..of course I do. My natural history library is getting rather cumbersome). So you can look forward to interesting slug blog posts to come!