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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
I am an 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.