Slugs are land gastropodsdevoid of shells. Their closest relatives, the shell gastropods, we call snails.
Snails can also live on land, but most of them do live in water. Despite the absence of a protective shell, naked slugs often become a real disaster for the garden and vegetable garden.
This article will help you get acquainted with their biology, and how a snail differs from a slug, as well as why they appear and what they eat.
What do they look like?
The body of a slug consists of three parts - a head, a torso with a mantle and a leg. The body is elongated, slightly flattened from top to bottom. The head is raised and clearly visible, it carries two pairs of tentacles - long ones, on which eyes and olfactory receptors sit, and short labial ones, which serve for touch and taste. The mouth is on the front of the head.
A convex "collar" is located behind the head on the back - it is a mantle with a lung inside, and on the side, on the right side, the respiratory opening. The anal opening is located nearby. The leg is the lower surface of the body on which the mollusk crawls.
The slug's skin is thin, bare and always covered with mucus. Covers usually have a protective coloration. - sandy, brown, gray, brown, and sometimes small white and black spots are distributed over the brown background.
The mucus helps the molluscs glide, cools and protects them from enemies.
Sizes range from 20 cm to 2 mm depending on the type of slug.
How do they reproduce?
Let's talk about how slugs breed. They are hermaphrodites by nature, each individual carries both male and female reproductive systems. But for laying eggs cross fertilization is necessary, so the slugs find each other by smell, and after a short mating dance, which can be an interesting sight, they exchange sperm.
After that, each one lays 20-30 eggs in moist soil. After 2-3 weeks, small slugs come out, which feed first on soil organic residues, and after 1.5 months they grow and begin to reproduce. After a single mating, eggs are laid for a month or more. Over the summer, each slug can lay up to 500 eggs.
In the middle lane, adult slugs, having laid their eggs for the last time, die in the fall. Eggs overwinter, at the beginning of June juveniles appear and after a month of active feeding they begin to reproduce.
The life cycle, like the development cycle, can accelerate or slow down depending on the weather. Sometimes slugs that did not have time to lay their eggs in the fall, hibernate in the soil, and begin laying in the spring.
What do slug eggs look like?
No deeper than 3 cm in fertile moist soil in autumn, heaps of white, translucent eggs with a diameter of 1-2 mm can be seen.
Clutch of slugs eggs
Slugs without a protective shell most of all depend on humidity and temperature. The optimum temperature range is 15-19 degrees. Abundant humidity is also optimal, because slugs breathe not only with the lungs, but also through the surface of a wet body, so drying out leads to death.
This is why these gastropods are nocturnal. During the day, after rain, they can also come out of the shelter. In dry summers, they go into the soil and fall into a temporary hibernation in a cocoon of mucus.
For the same reason, they love dense thickets. So that weeding and loosening the soil makes life difficult for them.
Slugs crawl well, because they have a leg with strong muscles, and also retract the tentacles and curl up into a ball in danger.
What slugs eat, why and where they come from, and who eats slugs in nature, read on.
Where do they come from in the garden?
The reasons for their appearance in the garden may be as follows. Slugs live in nature, maintaining the ecological balance of forest and field communities.
From there they willingly switch to cultivated plants, using more than 150 species for food. Can be brought into the garden with new, infested plants.
Reproduction of slugs can become widespread. under favorable conditions, these are:
- warm wet spring;
- not a hot rainy summer;
- warm wet autumn;
- mild winter.
In the garden and vegetable garden, you can find a slug under large leaves, in shady wet thickets, in compost pits, where they feed on cut plants. In addition, they can live in a cellar or basement.
What do they eat?
Many slugs eat mushrooms, plant debris, but prefer fresh juicy parts of plants, vegetables and berries, so that slug eats first. They eat mostly the healthiest plants.
In their mouths they have a jaw with a sharp chitinous edge and a tongue, chitinous - grater or radula. Rubbing plants, they leave noticeable marks. in the form of cuts with smooth edges or depressions in the tubers of potatoes and other vegetables.
Slugs are not only capable of destroying crops, but can cause mold, bacterial and viral infections. If you are interested in the question: Do chickens or frogs eat slugs? Then read below.
Some species of slugs are intermediate hosts for worms - parasites of poultry. Therefore, it is not recommended to feed slugs to geese, chickens and other poultry.
And the thick layer of mucus that covers the plants after their raids pollutes and leads to decay.
There are plants that slugs eat first. (some can be used as bait):
- lettuce (until it fires the arrow and turns bitter);
- shepherd's bag;
- wood lice;
- cruciferous (except mustard).
Where and how long do they spend the winter?
Slug eggs, and sometimes adults, those who are late in laying eggs due to the weather, hibernate in fertile soil, no deeper than 3 cm from the surface.
What do they dislike and what are they afraid of?
Slugs can't stand direct sunlight dryness and high temperatures. Dry soil is the scourge of slugs, which is why morning watering is recommended, not evening watering when they start eating.
If the soil is covered with something unsuitable for crawling, such as sharp gravel, ash, straw, or needles, it is difficult for them to walk.
Slugs, possessing an excellent sense of smell, some plants "cannot stand the spirit":
- white clover;
There are a number of animals which are natural enemies of slugs. For them, the benefit of slugs is one - it is getting pure protein.
Who eats slugs in nature? Helps to reduce the number of slugs, attracting assistants such as:
- ground beetles and their larvae.
Helpers will remain on your territory, if they have habitats and suitable food. Birds love berry hedges and hanging birdhouses.
Insects like spicy plants, and the next link in the food chain is moles, shrews, murine rodents, frogs, toads. But all of these animals do not tolerate the use of industrial pesticides.
If the number of pests on your site is in the nature of an invasion, then you will have to apply more stringent control measures. How to get rid of slugs on vegetables and berries, as well as in a cellar or basement, read the articles on our site.
Slugs - another example of how at first glance a defenseless creature can become a dangerous pest of agriculture.
The hermaphroditism of these mollusks allows them to give 2 times more offspring than in the case of bisexual creatures, in which only females reproduce.
Different types of slugs can feed on cultivated plants at the same time, sometimes up to 10 different species coexist on the same site, both folk and chemical means of struggle will help get rid of them. And for a more successful fight, it is sometimes necessary to find out their species composition and food preferences.