It’s not every day that someone shares time with a slug, but this morning that’s exactly what I did. It had poured until about 5:30am, so the conditions were prime.
Actually, I was hunting for a spring peeper that frequents one garden and the grasshoppers that live in another, when a spot of orange caught my attention. And so I bent down for a closer look.
A slug is like a snail without a shell, which makes it vulnerable to dehydration. That’s why we only see them foraging on rainy or cloudy days. I suppose we should think of slugs as weather predictors, much the same way common polypody indicates the temperature. Of course, if you look under leaf cover in the garden, you’ll surely find them as well, no matter what the weather is. Cool and damp conditions prevail in their world view.
As Mr. Slug munched on a mushroom at my feet, I admired the pattern on his back and thought about my past experiences with slugs. I’ve licked their backs because I’d heard that they release a chemical which works like a natural anesthetic, thus providing a cure for toothaches. The numbness did last for a short period of time. That being said, my nursing friends encouraged me to stop because slugs may also carry parasites. And so I did.
Since I was upclose and personal, I could see Mr. Slug’s two short antennae and even shorter eye stalks. Then there was his accordion-shaped mouth that he used to grasp and shred plant material. At first I thought he sucked it in, but as I watched, I could see the chewing motion.
Being a mollusk like a clam or oyster, one might think about sautéing slugs. Or not. Really, I’m surprised my parents never tried that. Dad always sacrificed some beer so Mom could pour it into a tin pan in the garden to attract slugs. It worked–better for her than the slugs who thought they’d found the holy grail only to instead meet their fate. A perfect marinade. Thank goodness Mom and Dad didn’t think of that. But really, though slugs do have a bad reputation because they eat plant material in our gardens, they also play an important role as decomposers–of fungi and lichens and dead insects and plant material, all of which they turn back into soil.
And here’s another curious thing about slugs–their mode of transportation. Remember their vulnerability to dehydration? Well, in order to move along they must create a slimy mucous. And so a chemical reaction occurs in their bodies causing them to secrete a sticky, slippery substance. That probably helps in keeping their predators, like toads and snakes and birds, at bay. Once they’ve moved on, it dries up.
This morning, after we’d spent about a half hour together, Mr. Slug decide it was time to move on–toward the garden. It’s raining again as the sun sets and he’s probably slip sliding away across the yard in search of another feast.
Because you stayed with me through my slug praise, dear reader, I thought you’d enjoy stopping by to wonder about a few pollinators like the ant that visited the milkweed. Did you know that insects get their feet caught in the sticky pollen sacs of the flower? They have to twist and turn as this one did while trying to get out. In the process, their feet get covered with pollen that they carry to the next flower.
Pollinators come in all shapes and sizes, but I found one who looks like it wears a Halloween costume on a daily basis.
And this final pollinator of the day–loves to get totally immersed in its job.
I never did find the spring peeper today, and only one grasshopper, but my moments spent wandering and wondering were hardly sluggish.