Skip to content

Slugfest

Arion rufus ¼ adult (probably) feeding on flower
Arion rufus ¼ adult (probably) feeding on flower

No, it’s not a MMA slugging match but a wet day in Scarborough! Slugs (and snails) love a damp summer day, with a shower or two to keep the vegetation moist so they can glide around the garden!

Common Garden Slug (Arion distinctus) side view showing mantle, and stripy skirt running along the bottom of the foot
Common Garden Slug (Arion distinctus) side view showing mantle, and stripy skirt running along the bottom of the foot

Here (below) are a group of slugs feeding on fallen leaves; they almost look like they are at a food bar! Notice the tiny little grey-black sluglet – not the small one on the left – below the third slug at the bottom of the image. So these slugs are doing something useful – helping me tidy up fallen leaves! They also feed on a wide range of rotting organic matter, processing it through their bodies and enriching the soil.

Slugs feeding

OK they do feed on garden plants and flowers (!) although that has never bothered me. Here (below) is one feeding on a yellow poppy. You can see the slug’s mouth (radula) through the flower.

Common Garden Slug (Arion distinctus) feeding on yellow poppy flower
Common Garden Slug (Arion distinctus) feeding on yellow poppy flower

This particular Garden slug (next three images) was very acrobatic, hanging onto the end of a stem and moving about trying to locate another flower to feed on.

Common Garden Slug (Arion distinctus) hanging from stem
Common Garden Slug (Arion distinctus) hanging from stem

There are two tiny dots of reflected light on the two optical tentacles: the light-sensitive eye-spots. What did I look like to the slug?

Garden slug optical tentacles with eye-spots
Garden slug optical tentacles with eye-spots

Here is another shot (below) showing both the optical and sensory tentacles as the animal searches for another plant. The fluidity of its movement is amazing; all whilst holding onto the end of a tiny flower stalk.

Garden slug showing optical and sensory tentacles
Garden slug showing optical and sensory tentacles

All that action needs energy and like us they need to breathe. Slugs take in air through a hole in their mantle called a pneumostome. The sides of this ‘blow-hole’ appear blue in this garden slug (below). They are also said to have green blood.

Common Garden Slug (Arion distinctus) with pneumostome
Common Garden Slug (Arion distinctus) with pneumostome

There is a lot more to say about slugs – such as how they move, their mucus, their hermaphroditic sex life and so on – but for now, I am pleased to have had a damp day on which to appreciate these amazing animals.

rcannon992 View All

I am a retired entomologist with a background in quarantine pests and invasive invertebrates. I studied zoology at Imperial College (University of London) and did a PhD on the population dynamics of a cereal aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum) in the UK. I spent 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey studing cold hardiness of Antarctic invertebates and 17 years with the Food and Environment Research Agency. My main interests now are natural history, photography, painting and bird watching.

One thought on “Slugfest Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: