What Do Slugs Do? Fascinating Facts You Didn't Know | Kidadl


What Do Slugs Do? Fascinating Facts You Didn't Know

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Slugs, like snails, are soft-bodied mollusks and can be easily spotted in parks and gardens.

Unlike snails, they do not possess a hard outer shell, however, some slug species do possess a tough inner membrane to keep their bodies safe. Though slugs are important to the garden, it's important to not let their population grow out of control as it can cause problems as well.

When two slugs mate, each slug can lay around 40-60 eggs. Letting so many slugs grow naturally in your garden can cause an infestation, which may completely ruin your plants. There are some ways to deal with an overpopulation of slugs, such as letting small animals prey on them naturally or employing methods to deal with them on your own. However, it is very important to not go overboard, as completely eliminating these species from your garden can cause a number of problems as well. To learn more about these night dwellers in your garden, read on!

If you enjoy this article, you may also like our pages on what silverfish eat and what squid eat.

What do slugs do for the environment?

Though slugs may seem quite redundant in the grand scheme of things, they actually play a very important role at the lower levels of the big picture. Slugs thrive in gardens, parks, and other wooded areas, and may seem like a pointless nuisance to many of us.

However, they are a very important part of the food chain, posing as easy prey for many birds, mammals, and large insects. They are also detritivorous in nature, meaning that they feed on dirt, rotting plants, kitchen waste, and dead and decaying animal matter and turn it into nutrient-rich compost on excretion, which is great for crops and gardens.

Removing slugs from the natural order of things would not only remove a gardener's friend from your backyard, but would also eliminate an important food source for many predators like birds, insects, rodents, and small animals who would have to bear the impact of the situation. The way the food chain works, this would keep affecting creatures on higher tiers, until it results in either the extinction of many wildlife species or food shortage for humans, in regards to crops and meat both.

What do slugs do for the garden?

When it comes to the garden hierarchy, slugs are quite high up on the list. So why should we love slugs, with their slimy mucus trails?

Slugs are attracted to leafy vegetables like lettuce, though they prefer rotting waste to fresh vegetables. You are sure to find them hanging around your garden in weird places - underneath rocks, in hidden crevices, among plant debris and mulch and under tree bark, and in fallen logs. They gravitate towards fruits, flowers, fungi, and vegetables, preferring to eat those at ground level. They stay in their hideouts during the day, coming out at night and leaving slime trails as they move around. During the summer months, they prefer to live in wet and moist areas in order to stay cool.

An interesting fact about these soft-bodied mollusks that gardeners have observed is that most slugs lay eggs in recently raked or hoed soil, rather than on the smooth ground. The bumps and creases present are more effective in incubating the eggs, helping them hatch easily!

Slugs are present in virtually almost all backyards and gardens and tend to do more good than harm in small numbers. Snails are detrivores and eat almost every type of organic matter, including dead or decaying material or waste products like kitchen waste, rotting meat, and even feces. Slugs help to break down this matter and turn it into nutrient-dense, highly fertile compost.

Slugs are also the natural prey of helpful wildlife critters like hedgehogs and thrushes. Having a few of them around will attract these small creatures to your garden, which may pluck up slugs as a tasty treat as well as rid your garden of a few other pests in the process as well.

If you are suffering from plant damage and suspect invasive slugs to be the reason, then there are a couple of signs to look out for. If you find any damaged seedlings, holes in your plants or slimy trails of mucus running along the stems of your plants or across the ground, then your garden may have a large number of slugs.

A slug in the garden eating a lettuce leaf.

What do slugs do to humans?

Though slugs are an important part of the food chain and play a part in keeping us alive, that doesn't mean that you should skip all the steps in between and directly eat slugs!

Slugs are direct transmitters of rat lungworm meningitis, which can be very harmful to humans. They pick this up by eating rat feces, which can be transferred to humans who either unwillingly eat infected slugs or eat them undercooked or raw. Though these parasites die out on their own and cause flu and other minor illnesses at most, the human immune system can have adverse reactions on coming into contact with this parasite, which can be fatal. It can result in severe nausea, partial or complete blindness and paralysis, which is why it is recommended to stay away from slugs, and always handle them with gloves if doing so in case they might be infected. Slug slime also has anesthetic properties and can render your mouth numb if ingested.

Should you remove slugs?

Though it is not recommended to let large numbers of these slimy creatures take over your plants and vegetables, it is encouraged to keep a few slugs in the garden as they can prove to be very helpful to gardeners.

It is important to deal with slugs the right way in order to not accidentally cause damage to your garden. Trying to kill slugs by sprinkling salt or using slug pellets in your garden can upset the balance of your soil, as well as kill your plants and other animals.

There are a few natural ways you can keep both slugs and snails away from your garden, which will not harm your plants or other wildlife visitors to your garden in the process. Mixing used coffee grounds and eggshells in the soil helps, as the sharp and bumpy texture mixed with the bitter smell will prove uncomfortable for the soft slugs' bodies. Further, eggshells and coffee grounds will also break down and add nutrition to your soil, making it more fertile and beneficial for your plants.

Pay special attention to plants that attract slugs like lettuce, strawberries, cabbage, and beans. If you see any slug and snail damage or lurkers, install small copper fences or sprinkle sand around to keep them away. You can also plant lesser valuable plants nearby to serve as a trap, distracting them from your more loved ones in the process.

Making your garden a hospitable place for their natural predators like birds and hedgehogs also helps. Install a bird feeder and make your garden accessible to small critters, who will feed on the slugs present as well as invite interesting and adorable visitors to your garden!

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what slugs do then why not take a look at what oysters eat or slug facts.

Written By
Tanya Parkhi

Tanya always had a knack for writing which encouraged her to be a part of several editorials and publications across print and digital media. During her school life, she was a prominent member of the editorial team at the school newspaper. While studying economics at Fergusson College, Pune, India, she got more opportunities to learn details of content creation. She wrote various blogs, articles, and essays that garnered appreciation from readers. Continuing her passion for writing, she accepted the role of a content creator, where she wrote articles on an array of topics. Tanya’s write-ups reflect her love for traveling, learning about new cultures, and experiencing local traditions.

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