By Vanessa Childs Rolls
On early summer mornings the sidewalks of the Northend are covered in strange designs. These intricate patterns are the trails left behind by a rather sizable slug population. And not only are there a large number slugs in the Northend, but each of these slugs tends to be on the large size, averaging 5 inches long, or in some cases up to 8 inches long! These slow and quiet neighbours are truly amazing creatures.
The largest and most common slug species in the Northend is the leopard slug. They are identifiable by the stripes and patterns on their bodies. Leopard slugs are not native to North America, but were transported here, and to Australia, from Europe through agricultural imports.
Leopard slugs evolved from snails. As a result, they have an internal shell just under their shield and its whitish oval shape can be seen through their skin. This shell protects them from predators such as toads, turtles, beetles and birds. If unbothered by predators, they can live for up to three years.
Leopard slugs are nocturnal, although they occasionally come out on damp days. They use their mucus to slide around, and their mucus trails to find their way home once they have fed. Their mucus is colorless and iridescent, but not sticky. To mate leopard slugs hang intertwined from trees by a thick string of mucus.
The most startling thing about leopard slugs is that they can be carnivorous. While they mostly eat dead vegetation and carrion, they can also hunt other species of slugs and their eggs. Leopard slugs are four times faster than banana slugs, making them great slug hunters.
Leopard slugs do not eat healthy living plants. As a result, they are only a threat to your garden in large numbers and generally protect your garden from other vegetarian slugs. This just goes to show that you really can’t judge your neighbours by their appearance!