Slugs: Nature’s Perfect Pest

About 15 years ago, maybe even longer, I discovered the joys of Fimo and Sculpey. You can use this bakeable plasticine modeling clay to make miniature images, millefiore beads, and that’s what most people do with it. They make jewelry. I can’t think why I decided to make slugs instead, but I did. They were easy to make, a little weird, contrarian, and before I knew it, a friend had given me a book titled “The Little Greenish-Brown Book of Slugs” and I was gleefully quoting from it until I could clear a room in 20 seconds.

I don’t think the book is in print any longer, and all its quotes came from other sources: gardening magazines, newspapers, and academia. So, in the interests of poor taste, I hereby present to you some of my favorites from this book, The Little Greenish-Brown Book of Slugs (They Come Out at Night and Devour Everything That Grows):

Eating Habits of Slugs

Slugs are the desperate enemy of celery.

In England and Wales slugs are responsible for the loss of 41,000 acre equivalents of wheat.

The whole body surface produces mucus.

Limax maximus is reported to have eaten worms, meat, snails, other slugs, all kinds of food scraps and even the bindings from old books.

One captive specimen of Arion Ater consumed, with apparently equal relish, five other slugs, a dead mussel, insects, a scrap of soap, dead mice, birds, earthworms, bread, wild plants, poisonous mushrooms, fern leaves, sea holly, a piece of newspaper and a handful of beach sand.

Salacious Slug Details

In some species of Arion there is an evertile sarcobelum on the wall of the penis sac; and in Vaginulus there is a dart sac with a calcified dart.

In Arion Ater the first sign of courtship is one animal pursuing another, often eating the mucus trail.

The couring ritual may include lunging, biting, mantle-flapping, and tail-wagging.

Some premating biting becomes quite violent; actual hunks of flesh can be bitten off, leaving each slug battered and scarred.

They wrap their bodies together in a mass of slime.

They extend their sex organs by turning them inside out, as one turns out a glove finger.

The fully extended sex organs assume an irregular shape and become pearly white with iridescent shades of pink, blue and green.

Ariolimax often attempt and achieve appophalation: that is, one manages to gnaw off the penis of the other.

After a short time the love-play passes into a love-duel; each slug project its calcareous love-dart into the sole of the partner.

As the embrace is complete, the bag of living water is drawn up and re-absorbed. The process is lengthy, lovely and moving, almost lyrical.

After a 1/2 to 2 1/2 hour courship, a pair of slugs dangle on a cord of slime, their bodies constantly writhing at a pace that puts their usual slow movements to shame.

Gender Bending in Slugs

Slugs have both sexes in the same animal. Even so, each seeks out another individual to mate with.

They can even fertilize themselves in adverse conditions.

The youngest slugs are male, the oldest are female, and those in between have the capabilities of both sexes. All this means that they reproduce very efficiently.

The Usual Beery Nostrums

Put beer in saucers to attract slugs.

The slug crawls in and drowns – but he goes under while telling old jokes and singing college fight songs.

The next morning the beer should be filled with slugs, and vice versa.

You try a beer trap here in the Pacific Northwest and you’ll find it empty and one large slug demanding to know what kind of establishment runs out of beer so early.

Final Slug Facts of Interest

Members of the family Vitrinidae range into the Arctic and can sometimes be seen gliding along on the surface of snow.

If one of the optic tentacles is removed and the slugs are illuminated from above they crawl round in circles, always crawling to the eyeless side.

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