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Are Slugs really Smart?

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The slug is perhaps one of the most unlikable creatures on the planet, right? But maybe I can change your mind.. 

Oozing slime from behind; a sticky, nasty goo that won't wash off! I pick a long one up and it shrinks to half its length but twice its width, now making its self fat and squat. I feel the movement across my fingers and the glue that sticks my fingers together. It makes me want to vomit! An unwanted guest in the house-heading for the dish of left over cat or dog food kept on the floor. 

Photo by Daniel Jensen on Unsplash

In the dead of night they slither out of their dark hiding places with a slow persistence, like zombies that have woken up-still groggy from sleep. Yet by daylight, suddenly, they're gone! Just a shiny trail left behind. The detective starts work, but the slug eludes all!

This shell-less terrestrial devours your garden plants, fruit and vegetables at a speed equal to that of a hungry wedding party. In-fact, if you had bionic hearing, I'm sure you'd hear their loud munching all night long. Throwing egg shells and bark shavings at them won't deter them. So what's left to really love about this gastronomical slime ball of a gastropod mollusc?

Some animals delight in a diet of slug! 

Hedgehogs and toads are partial to the odd gooey aperitif. Foxes and badgers will partake in one or two of these culinary delights when desperate. Birds, of course enjoy feasting on a menu of variegated colours of slug.  Now Sir/ Madam, which cuisine do you prefer?  The garden slug -Arion Hortensis- the short one with the orange belly. There is the Great Grey- Limaz Maximus- or Leopard Slug, the longest of these creatures, who come with dark spots. Or you can feast on the Large Black-Arion Ater, who is a little shorter and is black or orange, but always with a black head. 

Photo by Jane Firth

I had an infestation of slugs in my garden once, so bad that on a warm summer's evening you often stood on several slugs mooching upon the doorstep. That was until we acquired two great big Aylesbury ducks. They run across the garden in anticipation at the mere sight of a spade in your hand. They ate the lot and never another slug seen out in public. Problem solved! Then there was the elusive slug that each night left its silvery trail upon the lounge carpet. But I could never discover it by day! I later uncovered it in the dark, edging out from the chimney. Oh yes, they can climb to great heights! 

Slugs are here for a reason!

I know it's absurd to consider this mucousy mollusc helpful in any way, but actually we do need them. There really are some benefits! I often thought they should be illuminated at night to emit some pretty design that lights up the garden. To display a light show for our entertainment, a selfish desire perhaps.

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

Shared family include the Steamer Clam, the Giant Squid, and the Periwinkle. Indeed, the snail, the 'mini sledge', my children called them, or 'escargot' to the French, is eaten too, by notable people! But alas, not the slug. In defense of this poor gastropod, he is always up for a night out, and a beer with you! However your beer guzzling foe may not survive the depth of your can and unfortunately for him, he will succumb to a 'bitter' doom!

We can find antiseptic properties in slug and snail slime. 

Each night they arrive for their work on time, to slither onwards, an army devouring the discarded debris of humans- and their dogs, worms and fungi. Processing accidents and indeed purposeful mess, into much needed quality compost. (So please don't leave behind your dog poo problem in a plastic bag!) This slime is so squeaky clean that scientists collect it to make possible, new treatments for healing skin conditions. Slap it on! 

This sticky mucus turns out to be a blessing! Antiviral properties contained within it might be used to kill the M.R.S.A bug (a multi-drug-resistant bacteria) now rampaging our hospitals. Anti-fungal, antibiotic and natural additives are other benefits that the slug could bring. An infirmary full of molluscs! Does this sound like an episode of Dr Who or some sci fi horror movie? Yet it might be the future of medicine, and it is nearly Halloween!

I think slugs are smart too-I once observed them climbing up a post and sledging across a long washing line, to drop to a dish of rabbit food- pretty clever! Can we turn the slug into a hero after all? Perhaps a hand gel (it doesn't wash off so easily) to protect us from Covid? A throat pastel anyone? The slug has thicker slime than the snail, who instead has a shell to protect it. So here's the Crunch! - Escargot?- Off the menu! And slug juice here we come...!

Jane elizabeth Firth