Attack of the Killer Slugs

I’ve read that we shouldn’t be too quick to rid ourselves of all of the slugs in our gardens, because certain species predate other slugs. I’ve never really been convinced of this. Anyone who regularly goes out into their garden at night to search for (and eradicate) these slimy creatures will know that slugs will eat pretty much anything, from carrion to cat faeces. Kill a slug one night and you can almost guarantee to find three more feasting on it’s carcass the next. So while I have often seen slugs eating other slugs, I didn’t consider that to be proof of predation.

But then, sometime last year, I started to notice a few rather distinctive (and very large) slugs cruising confidently around the garden after dark. Something clicked, and I decided to take a chance and spare them (or maybe it was just because they scared me!)  I don’t think I ever saw them actively eating plants, and I really hope they don’t, because I dread to think how much plant material it would take to satisfy their appetites. I think I saw one attacking another slug, but I couldn’t be sure – it wasn’t the kind of ferocious kill that would make good prime time TV. David Attenborough might well not have been able to stay awake for long enough to complete the commentary.

Recently, I decided to do some research. I’m sure now that these just-about-mini beasts are the impressively named Leopard Slug (or Limax maximus, to use it’s equally impressive Latin moniker). They can apparently grow to more than fifteen centimetres (six inches). While I haven’t put a ruler next to them, some of the specimens I’ve seen have looked to be about that size.

Alien vs Predator

In for the kill…


Or, maybe not!

I was hoping this encounter would give me conclusive proof that leopard slugs are predators, but as you can see, it didn’t. I don’t know, maybe this one had eaten already? A few nights earlier I’d seen a leopard ‘pounce’ onto a similar sized slug. They don’t react well to the light, so I continued with the slug hunt elsewhere and kept coming back to this encounter. Each time the Leopard was on top of the other slug, but the last time I looked, the victim had gone, and the leopard looked a little fatter than it had before. I didn’t think I’d been away long enough for the victim to have slimed out of sight, so it seemed as though the only thing that could have happened was that the leopard had, like a snake, swallowed it whole. I can only assume I must have been mistaken – I really don’t think even leopard slugs eat in this way. My torch isn’t that bright, so it’s difficult to see that well. Maybe the victim escaped underground.

So I’m still waiting for conclusive proof that these miniature leopards are roaming my garden in search of sluggy prey. I’ll report back if and when I have anything more to tell…

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