Types Of Slugs Gardeners Encounter

The word “slug” often fills gardening enthusiasts with dread and disgust, and for good reason. Various slug species are infamous for wreaking havoc in gardens. Among them, a certain type of gastropod mollusk stands out for deeply disheartening countless gardeners as they watch their fruit and vegetable gardens, like brassicas, along with ornamental plants such as hostas, be devastated. These pests exhibit a particular affection for these types of plants.

In this blog post, I will cover everything you need about slugs. After reading this post, you will be able to identify most species you will find in your gardens and their characteristics, and you will be in a much better position to know what you are dealing with.

Slug Description

The anatomy of slugs can be broken down into various components.

leopard-slug

Foot. This is the bottom of the slug. It is a muscle that the slug uses to move, and this muscle contracts rhythmically to produce motion. As it progresses, the slug leaves behind a mucus layer upon which it slides. This protects the slug from objects it is climbing over. It is often why the eggshell slug deterrent that most gardeners use doesn’t work.

Tentacles Slugs have two pairs of tentacles on their heads, and they can both be retracted if the slug is under threat. The upper pair is light sensing, and the lower pair is what they use to smell.

slug_parts

Mantle Just behind the head is the mantle. A raised section of the back looks like a saddle on a horse. This mantle contains the respiratory opening, usually on the right side of the slug and is very easy to identify when opened. Below the mantle sit the anus and genitals.

Radula, Used by mollusks for feeding, is a structure of tiny teeth used to scrape food particles off a surface and draw them into the mouth.

Skirt This is the bottom fringe that surrounds the foot

Tail Everything to the rear of the mantle is called the tail.

This is just a basic breakdown of the slug’s anatomy, but it will help you understand sections of this blog as we continue.

Types of Slugs

There are many different species and subspecies of slugs. There are around 60,000 different species. That is way too many to cover here. In this section, I will cover some of the most seen species in your garden at home.

Leopard Slug – Limax Maximus

The Latin name Limas Maximus means the biggest slug. A few species are in the genus, such as the leopard slug and the great grey slug. This slug is part of the family Limacidae.

Leopard slugs can reach lengths of 16cm or 6.3 inches, with markings on its upper body vindictive of a leopard which is where it gains its common name from. The underside of this slug’s foot is white.

This slug has a long keel running the length of the rear of the body (Tail section). The mucus from this slug is sticky, and you can see distinct breeding behavior while hanging from this mucus.

Where are leopard slugs found?

Being very widespread, you can find them worldwide. They prefer to live in most woodland and gardens throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and the USA.

Are leopard slugs good?

Yes, they are good and are the gardener’s friends. This is a slug you don’t mind seeing in your garden as they do not feed on healthy living plant matter. They help the gardener recycle and break down rotting matter, which turns it into nutrients for the garden.

What do leopard slugs eat?

Leopard slugs can be a gardener’s friend. They typically eat rotting plants and fungi but avoid eating other slugs.

How long do leopard slugs live?

Unlike many other slugs, if they survive the first winter, leopard slugs can live up until they are two and a half years old.

Black Slugs – Arion Ater

A common widespread slug with a large bulky body. This slug can reach lengths of 18cm or 7 inches and, despite its name, can be black-brown, grey, orange, or even reddish. It has large tubercles over the back and sides of its body.

Where Do Black Slugs Live?

A very common slug is found in Europe, Northwest of the USA, Alaska, Spain, and Australia. This slug has also been introduced to places like British Columbia. They live in grassland, hedgerows, and woodlands.

black-slug

Are black slugs harmful?

Slugs can be a total pain to the gardener. They are slimy and sticky when handled, but the black slug is not harmful to humans.

Are black slugs poisonous to dogs?

Slugs carry parasites, one of which is called lungworms; these are serious issues if your dog should eat a slug. Lungworm has serious health issues for dogs, such as:-

  • Breathing issues
  • General sickness
  • Poor blood clotting
  • Changes in behavior

If you see any of these signs of lungworm and think your dog may have eaten any slug. You should visit your vet to be tested and treated before it gets worse.

Ashy Grey Slug – Limax Cinereoniger

This is the largest UK slug. It can get to the enormous length of 25 cm or 11 inches. This slug has a pale-yellow keel running down its back with an ash-grey color. Most gardeners won’t see this slug, though, as although it lives across the UK, it mainly stays to mature woodlands. This slug will not be an issue for the crops in your garden.

ashy-grey-slug
dusky-slug

Dusky Slug – Arion subfuscous

When mature, this slug has a moderate size of 7cm and can be found all over the UK. It is pale brown with dark stripes, but due to its mucus could be mistaken for being more orange in color. It prefers to live in woodlands and hedgerows but can be found in gardens and allotments. This slug can be seen filling itself on your lettuce and brassicas.

Netted / Grey Field Slug – Deroceras reticulatum

This is one of the most serious threats to most gardeners; it is widespread throughout the UK and lives in gardens and allotments. It will feed on the planted seeds and all vegetation you plant out. The color of this slug varies but is usually light brown with dark blotches.

netted-slug

It has a lumpy look across the body, and its keel is very pronounced. The clear mucus is produced in extremely large quantities. Although small, just 3 to 5cm, this slug will continue to feed even in freezing temperatures, so it is active during early spring.

Yellow Slug – Limax flavus

This slug certainly lives up to its name. It is yellow and loves to live in damp areas. Whether that is the garden or your house, it is considered a pest species; however, this slug is also a great recycler of rotten matter.

It has yellow and grey mottled skin and is approximately 10cm long. It can be found all year round and eats decaying plants, fungi, and live plants. So, this slug is also one to watch for the gardener.

yellow-slug

So now we understand some of the most popular slugs you may see around your garden, home, and the countryside where you live.

So, what can we do about them? Are they good or bad? What are their lifespans? These are all questions I asked myself over the years. Understanding each slug’s benefits and challenges is important to tackle the issues we may face. If you want to view a video I made on 6 proven ways to tackle slugs on Youtube, Click here.

Are there any good slugs?

Birds, insects, slowworms, earthworms, and hedgehogs will eat slugs. Our gardens are a balancing act; if you irradiate any of these, you tip the balance. So, slugs in the garden are a good thing. They can help break down decaying matter and even eat cat and dog excrement and carrion.

Can a slug bite you?

Slugs cannot bite you, and although they are not the most pleasant of looking creatures, they pose no harm to gardeners. The radula is more like a tongue or ribbon of very minute teeth; they cannot break the skin of us humans. However, they are used greatly for grazing on crops or mushrooms and decaying matter. Some even are ideas for eating meat.

What is the lifespan of a slug?

Slugs will start to mature between 3 months and a year old. The average age for a slug’s life expectancy is 18 months. However, slugs like the leopard slug can live up to 2.5 years.

Do slugs lay eggs?

Gardeners, occasionally, will move a rock or some ground cover and see little bundles of white to grey pearl-like eggs; these are slug eggs. Usually laid of leaves or the soil. They are laid all year round and start feeding as soon as they hatch, which usually takes a month. The young slugs will feed for 3 to 5 months before maturity.

slugs-eggs1

How to get rid of slugs?

There are so many slug control methods. Some work, and others are just myths. I have a video on my YouTube channel which gives you six surefire ways to deal with slugs. But I will bullet point some for you here too.

  • Build a pond. This will attract all sorts of wildlife that will eat the slugs. Things like birds, hedgehogs, frogs, toads, newts, and other wildlife will help you control the numbers. I have a video of a pond with a unique feature ideal for wildlife on YouTube.
  • Beer traps. This is a fantastic way to reduce the numbers in specific garden areas. One tip is to add a ridge tile to your trap to keep the rain out. Please don’t dispose of the dead slugs; you can use them in the next method.
  • Products like Nemaslug contain microscopic worms (Nematodes), which seek out slugs, stop them from feeding on your plants within three days, and then kill them. They are 55harmless to any wildlife and pets that may end up eating the slug after. Gardeners always worry about the word nematode as they think it is all bad news. But this is a good one. Buy here on Amazon.
  • If you do not want to buy Nemaslug, take the slugs that drown in the beer traps and make your own. I will show you exactly how to do it on my YouTube video here.
  • Placing down some boards, stones, or plastic can provide areas for slugs to hide during the day. This will keep them cool in the shade and moist. It is simple for gardeners to collect the slugs from the areas during the day.
  • Hunting. Spend an hour each night after dark with a torch and scissors and go on a slug-hunting spree.

I have another blog called Slugs in the Garden – 6 proven control methods that work. So this is available if you prefer to read exactly how you can tackle slugs in a much more in-depth way.

The video below shows you six organic ways how to get rid of slugs from your growing beds.

Do slugs feel pain?

Having mucous membrane slugs would feel pain. It is important to dispatch them as quickly as possible. Beer traps and some of the other ways are quick and effective. However, a favorite of gardeners is to pour salt on the slugs.

Imagine pouring salt up your nose; the mucous membrane would start to burn. Salt would have the same effect on a slug. It dehydrates the slug, burning its membrane, and it can take a long time to die. It would feel pain for the entire time until death.

As a gardener, even if you don’t care about slugs, there is another reason not to use salt. Adding lots of salt to your soil can kill the slug and loads of other beneficial soil life and even alter the pH of your soil if used regularly.

Conclusion

I intended to get gardeners a resource to see the types of slugs they may come across in the garden. Understand whether they are good or bad and what you can do about them.

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