Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Leopard Slugs

A couple of times on the blog I have mentioned our resident Leopard Slug Limax maximus (Fr. Limace léopard) family. Every morning there are slug trails across the floors and sometimes on the benches. At least once a week one of us will come downstairs in the morning and see a slug cruising across the kitchen. Even worse is coming down in the dark and standing on one.

I guess it's one of the hazards of living in a damp limestone house with a compost bin and desultory housekeeping.

A Leopard Slug cruising across our kitchen floor one morning.
 The tiles are 20cm square, which means this slug is about 15cm long.

Adult slugs are 10 - 20 cm long and have a very variable pattern of 'leopard spots', hence their vernacular name. They are nocturnal and apparently quite smart for slugs. Supposedly they can be taught to avoid things with aversion therapy, and their homing instinct is very strong. Simon has tried to discourage them from hiding under the dishwasher by sprinkling salt there but it's hard to tell if they've learned anything. The homing instinct probably accounts for our numbers never decreasing despite the fact they get put firmly outside once discovered. My guess is they are making their way back inside somehow.

 An adult Leopard Slug is capable of squeezing through the 2-3mm gap in our sink overflow, as I witnessed one day whilst washing up.

They are almost always found in association with human habitation, usually living in cellars or outbuildings (unlike the closely related Ash-black Slug L. cinereoniger, which is always found in woodland). They are omnivores, mainly eating dead plant material (so our compost bin is heaven as far as they are concerned). They will also eat other slugs and small growing plants, so they are kind of a mixed blessing. Apparently they live about 3 years, during which time they go from being tiny wee creatures a couple of centimetres long, to hulking great things of 15 or so centimetres.


Sheila said...

Yuck! At least they don't scurry so you're able to pick them up and dispose of them. Here in Texas we have to keep an eye out for the occasional scorpion, so we avoid walking into a dark room in bare feet. Even take a flash light to the loo.

Susan said...

We have house centipedes for scurrying :-) I'm inclined to agree that slugs are better than scorpions as housemates.

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