Thursday, 9 October 2014

Slugs – terrestrial gastropod molluscs that may have to chew off their mate's penis

I am not overly fond of slugs. It is not that I do not appreciate them – I just cannot overcome my aversion to their slime, and I object to the harm they do to young and vulnerable plants in our garden. When we first moved to our home—26 years ago—we tried to reduce the slug population. We would go out at night with a torch and a bucket and pick up slugs – hundreds of them. Then we would take the buckets about half a mile away and release the slugs near a local stream where we hoped they would be wet and happy. We had no wish to harm them, but just wanted them to live elsewhere. I have heard that they return to their homes, but cannot believe that they could find their way back from such a distance.

When—after a few months—we appeared to be making no headway in reducing the slug population, we gave up. As I respect their right to exist and feed, I do not put down slug pellets. I limit what I grow and use copper barriers around the pots with new and delicate plants. Copper really seems to work well as a slug barrier.

Slugs are quite extraordinary creatures. They have no skeleton and hence can flatten themselves almost completely to squeeze through the smallest of spaces. They have wonderfully delicate antennae which Wikipedia tells me they can regrow if lost. Apparently land slugs have both male and female genitalia and the penis can corkscrew and get trapped during mating and have to be chewed off by their mate! Now there’s a thing and no mistake. Slugs can also be quite beautifully marked. Many of the one’s that we come across are covered in slug mites.

We have had a problem with slugs in the kitchen for quite a while. A copper slug barrier by the patio door seems to be slowly sorting this out, and we do not think new ones are getting in any more. We are still putting out slugs some nights at the moment though, until the current residents have been evicted. In the morning it is easy to see where they have been by the glistening trails in the kitchen. I find it fascinating that their foul slime can turn into something so shiny and magical that can be brushed away like thistledown.

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