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Slugs | Pest Control Sydney | Facts

Slugs are gastropods lacking the shell that snails have. Lacking the protective shell, slug bodies dry out very quickly, so they are limited to moist environments, and must retreat to such areas when conditions are dry. Many species of land slug are at their most active just after rain, taking advantage of the damp conditions. In dry conditions, slugs stay moist by hiding under tree bark, fallen logs, and in man-made structures, such as pots. The slime trail that slugs leave allows others of the same species to identify a potential mate, and some carnivorous slugs will follow a trail to find food. The mucus on their bodies can make the slug difficult for some predators to hold, such as birds, and can be distasteful. Some species lower themselves from heights on cords of slime.

Slugs and Slug control

Slugs are hermaphrodites, and will mate with another, producing around thirty eggs, which are laid in a hole in the ground, or beneath a fallen log. Slugs can play an important role in ecosystems, eating dead leaves, fungus, and rotting vegetable matter. Some species eat parts of living plants. Some eat earthworms or snails, and some eat other slugs. Some amphibians, snakes, small mammals and turtles eat slugs.

Most slug species are harmless to humans and human activities, but some are serious pests to agriculture and horticulture. They can kill even fairly large plants by eating it faster than the plant can grow. Even without destroying the plant, they can damage ripe fruits and vegetables, making them unattractive and unsuitable for sale.

Slugs can be controlled with the use of baits. Iron phosphate baits are a recent innovation, and are preferred over the earlier poisonous baits, being safer for native and domestic animals. These have been demonstrated to be at least as effective as poisons. Traditional slug control methods can be somewhat useful in small gardens. Such methods include beer traps, crushed eggshells, coffee grounds, and copper. Sprinkling the slug with salt will also kill it by causing its body to fatally dry out, but will cause soil salinity if done in quantity.

In 2011, a case was reported of a baby from Willoughby being left comatose and brain-dead after contracting a rat lungworm, thought to be a result of crawling across a slug trail and ingesting the parasite.

As with snails, native slugs can be differentiated from introduced species by natives only having a single pair of tentacles, with introduced species having two pairs.

Australia’s largest native land slug is the Red Triangle Slug, and it can be identified by the distinctive red triangle on its back. They can grow to 14 centimetres in length and can be found in urban areas, woodlands and heaths in eastern Australia from New South Wales to Queensland. Its usual food source is microscopic algae that grows on the smooth surface of some species of eucalyptus trees, but it can also be useful for removing mould from bathroom walls and shower recesses. Another common species of slug is the introduced Leopard Slug, distinguished by its dark spots on a light brown body. It can grow up to twenty centimetres in length, and can be found in urban areas throughout Australia. It feeds on dead animal tissue, cat food and animal faecal matter.

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