When I was walking a dog (sadly, not mine, though I adore her) yesterday, I noticed that there were an inordinate number of slugs around. I noticed it first when I nearly trod on one and then slipped slightly sideways, into a bush on which a great deal more were feasting. And this got me wondering: Why were there suddenly so many of the little beasts about?
It seems that slugs particularly like micro-habitats which are less windy, more humid and which sit between 3 – 30 degrees c. This seems like quite a range to me and I certainly don’t often see so many slugs on the hottest days England tends to see. They like these conditions because they are primarily made up of water, which is lost quickly when it’s dry and hot. (this is one of the functions of the gloriously disgusting mucus which they leave behind wherever they go. I had a slug infestation in university accommodation and did not enjoy the presence of mucus when eating breakfast; in the countryside, though, it’s quite fascinating to see plants covered in this strange substance). However, when conditions are not favourable, they may hide underneath things. These areas, though, can often be flooded when the weather goes from pleasantly cool and damp to torrential. Slugs may come out then to stop them drowning.
Something I need to go back and explore, though, is the fact that slugs often have mites running all over them. These mites may feed on the mucus of slugs, which is a wonderful example of there being so much more to each creature than first meets the eye. Apparently, these tiny mites even move into and out of the slug’s breathing pores without any problem to either minibeast.
In the featured image for this entry, you can see two pairs of feelers. I obviously made the slugs feel uncomfortable because every time I tried to get a good shot of these feelers, they would retract. One set is used for detecting light and reminds me of the bonus eye bees have. The other set are used for smell and taste (in some form, the senses that allow slugs to enjoy your gardens); slugs can sense food from several feet away which may be why you sometimes see them at full pace, determined to reach their favourite snack first.