Slug watch wants you
Scientists want your help with tracking the spread of a slug threatening to eat its way through British gardens and crops.
The Spanish slug is a voracious eater that survives many slug pellets, eats crops spared by our native slugs, tolerates drier conditions, reproduces in greater numbers and even eats dead animals and excrement.
You can help by simply recording and photographing findings on the “Slug Watch” website. As well as checking under logs and plant pots in your garden,you can follow instructions to build a slug trap.
The Spanish slug was first reported in the UK in January of this year by Dr Ian Bedford, head of entomology at the John Innes Centre. During the long winter, many disappeared underground or died, but the eggs survived and the species may have returned in greater numbers.
“We want photos and sightings from members of the public to help build a picture of how widespread the Spanish slug has become,” said Dr Bedford.
“The reports may also give us an idea of whether it is breeding with our nativespecies to form a hybrid combining the worst of the Spanish slug with tolerance to frosts and cold from our own species.”
According to Velcourt technical director Keith Norman, farmers are using up their entire allowance of slug pellets early in the season leaving no other means of control.
“This is a disaster waiting to happen if the Spanish slug proliferates and establishes itself in the UK,” said Norman.
“The Spanish slug causes more eating damage and cannot be cotrolled with existing measures.”
Slugs do play an important role in the ecosystem. They are natural composters, breaking down vegetation, and provide food for our hedgehogs, toads and some garden birds.
There are 30 native species in the UK, four of which are classed as pests. They are the netted or grey field slug, the garden slug, the keeled slug and the large black slug.
“We hope that as well as helping with research into the Spanish slug, people will learn a bit about the biology of these molluscs,” said Dr Bedford.
“You never know, we may even help inspire someone to become a malacologist in the future.”
The material for the website was designed and written by Norwich A level student Rachel Ayers during a Nuffield research placement. Her favourite slug became the chestnut slug after she discovered how fast it can move while trying to photograph it.
The JIC entomology facility is supported by core funding from the BBSRC.
SlugWatch website: www.slugwatch.co.uk
Follow the project on Twitter: @SlugWatch