It has been raining a lot lately so, once again, we have a crowd of slugs on the brick walkway surrounding the building. Usually we have slugs and snails, but for some reason the snails are absent this time.
I actually prefer the snails because at least they have shells to provide some cover. Slugs just slither across the bricks, naked and slimy, leaving a slow trail of glistening muck behind them. Cricket is fascinated by them. She will walk up to the slugs and carefully sniff them, like the scientist she is. Neither dog ever steps on a slug, or tries to lick, or god forbid, eat one. I’ve never seen any of the robins pick up a slug either, the way they dig up the worms and carry their squiggly brown bodies in their mouths as they fly away.
I decided to do some research to see if I could figure out why the snails are absent this time around. The only real difference between slugs and snails is that snails have shells, like a house they carry with them. Without shells to carry around, slugs can squeeze into smaller, and skinnier spaces to hide. When attacked, slugs can contract their bodies, making themselves harder and more compact, but normally they have soft brownish/gray bodies, and they vary in size from a quarter of an inch to two inches and longer.
(I want to warn you that there are slug pictures coming up, and even the two photographers – aka me and Mom – got a little nauseous during the photo shoot.)
Both snails and slugs like to eat vegetation, so they are ever present in gardens, eating up plants and fruits, and even the roots and stems that keep the plant alive. Some people turn the tables on those slugs and snails and actually eat them. Blech.
They are both very slow moving creatures, so that as they cross the walkway at night they are likely to be squashed or crunched under my feet, making me feel like a murderer, and totally grossed out. There have been a number of times when I wasn’t sure what I was looking at up ahead, especially in the dark, because we have a lot of small dogs living here now, and many of the slugs are about the size of a small dog’s poop. I wouldn’t want to step on that either.
I still have no idea where the snails went this season, but one of the articles I read mentioned that snails, because of their shells, can hibernate, both in winter and summer, by retracting into their shells and creating a mucus plug in the opening, to keep in the moisture and keep out the small insects that would try to invade their sleep. Maybe all of the local snails are sleeping in dark hidden places in the backyard, and leaving it to the slugs to eat up all the vegetation they can, until the weather cools down again. Maybe snails have as much trouble with the heat as I do.
In the meantime, the dogs and I have to do a lot of hopping and swerving to avoid stepping on the slugs, and I’ve tried to find something to like about them, since they are temporarily my neighbors and we have to live in such close proximity with one another. Other than the fact that they are very easy to take pictures of, because of their slow motion lives, the mucus trails they leave behind can be sort of pretty, like glittery graffiti.