I rarely dislike any critter. Be it vertebrate or invertebrate, warm- or cold-blooded, furred or scaled, no legs at all or a hundred legs.
However. Since I’ve lived in Ireland and discovered my love of plants, I now have an extreme dislike for a certain invertebrate.
The filthy nasty disgusting destroying slug!
Holes in my hostas, strawberries with caverns eaten into the lovely red pulp, seedlings arbitrarily chewed off at the base of the stem. Augh!!!
I have an Irish Wildlife book. It has exactly six pages of mammals for a total of 43, which includes whales (and the bastard American mink an ecological group released from a fur farm and now has overrun the country, due to well-meaning dammed idiots). Rather an astoundingly tiny number of mammals, but it is a small island after all.
The ‘Terrestrial molluscs’ section, on the other hand, has 21 types of slugs and snails. What the HELL, Ireland?!? I know it’s wet and green, but really?
I’m not squeamish when it comes to easily-squished things. I have been known to flail about like a Whirling Dervish when I’ve walked into a large spiderweb in the dark, but who wouldn’t? I have a dislike of ants when they surprise me, and maggots are just disgusting. I have stories to explain both the ants and the maggots. Not today. Today is when I admit to a shudder, a step back and maybe an involuntary sound of horror when a giant-ass-slug surprises me.
They do, they do. After nine years here I still can’t get used to seeing slugs the size of my thumb in my compost bin. Yeeuch! Even better, at the bottom of a pot I want to use. Which is where I found monsters.
I had an olive tree that didn’t survive (not surprised) but I kept it as I could grow snow peas up its dead trunk. Well, I’ve not done that in a few years, so I moved the dead tree, soil and all, into another pot it didn’t quite fit into. It was a nice pot and I wanted it for a more permanent planting. Anyhoo, the tree has been in the temporary pot for a year, and I decided to move it. Picked it up by the trunk, and damn if it didn’t just pull right out of the pot, dirt and all.
And there were huge slugs in the gap at the bottom.
I put the tree back in the pot and moved the whole thing from the bottom, leaving it alone until I could face the slimy suckers.
That’s them. One big sumbitch and one younger version, both Limax flavus, or yellow slug. They look more green to me. It must be because of all the lovely tender plants I feed them! Just look. Nasty nasty nasty.
Me being me, I got over myself and knocked them onto cardboard so I could take pictures. I also wanted to know just how big they are, so I got out the tape measure.
That’s the smaller one – the juvenile. It woke up first and tried to get away as fast as slug-ly possible. I didn’t let it, of course.
While trying to get the older one to wake up and stretch out, I found something even more disgusting. Slugs have mites. My camera wasn’t good enough to get them, but both yellow slugs had tiny cream-coloured mites running over them. Ewwwwwwwwwwwww. They must be pretty specific to slugs, these mites, because how the hell didn’t they get stuck in the slime? I know more about slugs than I ever wanted to know.
Swift had it right:
“The vermin only teaze and pinch
Their foes superior by an inch.
So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite ‘em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.”
I don’t feel that superior. These slugs are unstoppable!
I finally got the older one to unfurl, and it gave me a perfect measure.
An inch, Mr Swift? How about four? Gaaaah!
The book says that is maximum size for this species. But. There is another one that can get up to 25mm in length – almost ten inches long. The ashy-grey slug, Limax cinereoniger. At least this Limax doesn’t come into gardens, otherwise I might actually faint away if I am surprised by one of those.
Oh: I killed them all. With glee, and table salt.