European black slug not a Missouri native

Sunday, January 29, 2012

There are many different kinds and sizes of slugs throughout the world, and several kinds can be found in Missouri. The nonnative European black slug shown here is of average size at about one inch long.

I took this photo of a black slug eating on the rim of a bracket fungus (shelf fungus) on the foggy afternoon of Jan. 22, ahead of some storms. It surprised me to find this slug and several others nearby foraging during daylight hours in the middle of winter. Slugs normally feed at night and are not normally seen in January.

Some kinds of slugs become serious garden pests by eating tender leaves of vegetable plants such as lettuce and damaging strawberry crops by eating holes into the ripening fruit. I do not recommend using commercial baits to control slugs in a garden. Rather, you might consider laying a board or section of plywood on the ground in your garden close to where you see an infestation. Slugs will congregate under the board to spend the day out of the heat. They are easy to collect in this way. Chickens will eat slugs. Bluegill will also eat slugs.

In Southeast Missouri the black slug tends to be more of a forest dweller and less of a garden problem, preferring to eat tender new woodland plants and a myriad of fungi found in the woods. Slugs have small raspy teeth and small eyes.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the Painted Wren Gallery.

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