Identification

Slugs are soft-bodied and move using a large muscular foot that slides over a slimy secretion. They have two sets of tentacles on their head. The longest have the animal’s eyes and the shorter ones are used for tasting and smelling. Slugs and snails have many similarities since slugs have evolved from snails. Their external shell has shrunk over millions of years to become a small internal structure. Without a shell they protect themselves from drying out by covering their bodies with a sticky layer of mucus.

Size

Can range from 3 - 4cm in length (field slug) to 15cm in length (keeled slugs)

Distribution

Many are widespread and common throughout Britain as long as the conditions of shelter, moisture and temperature are right. As a result numerous species are found in a variety of terrestrial habitats including woodlands, hedgerows and gardens.

Status

The UK has around 30 slug species with fewer species the further north travelled.

Habitat preference

Woodland, hedgerows and gardens

Where to find them in the garden

Most active in damp weather and at night, usually from March to October, but possibly right through winter. During the day they tend to remain in dark, moist areas of the garden including under plant pots and logs.

Role in the garden

Slugs and snails are herbivores. They eat flowers, fruits and roots which can make them unpopular with gardeners, notably field slug and garden slug, but most perform a vital role in recycling, by feeding on dead and dying vegetation. Enemies include birds, frogs, toads, beetles and hedgehogs. Slugs are often covered in, or are able to excrete, sticky slime to deter predators from eating them and so you may see birds wiping them on the grass before eating them.