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article imageU.K. gardens being taken over by voracious foreign invader

By Karen Graham     Sep 5, 2016 in Environment
Nothing is worse than going out to your garden and finding it has been eaten overnight by voracious five-inch brown and orange mottled slugs. But that is exactly what British gardeners are dealing with today — an invasion of Spanish slugs.
Arion vulgaris, commonly called the Spanish slug is in the family Arionidae, the roundback slugs. But regardless of what you want to call them, they are a horrible, cannibalistic and voracious pest.
It is difficult to determine where exactly the Spanish slug may have come from. Depending on which sources are cited, it could have originated in northern Spain, western France or even in southern England. And you can't really blame any country for not wanting to claim this nasty beast as their own.
Ian Bedford is the Head of Entomology at John Innes Centre. He also specializes in  Bug  Photography...
Ian Bedford is the Head of Entomology at John Innes Centre. He also specializes in 'Bug' Photography and is a plant pest Consultant.
Ian Bedford
In the U.K., the slug was first spotted in 1954, according to Kerney M. (1999). Atlas of the land and freshwater mollusks of Britain and Ireland. pp. 1-264. Colchester. (Harley). It later spread to Lincolnshire and Norfolk in 2012. But now we are in 2016, and the invasive species is continuing its slow march across the U.K.
One of the big problems with the Spanish slug is their willingness to reproduce. They can lay up to 400 eggs a year. This year has been particularly bad in Britain because of the mild winter and plentiful rains in June. Gardeners have actually lost entire crops of potatoes, leeks, courgettes or beans overnight to the pests, reports the Daily Mail.
The UK's Express reported in April this year that the insect conservation charity Buglife said that because of the mild winter, the slugs did not hibernate and kept on eating and breeding.
Juvenile Arion vulgaris from Lower Austria.
Juvenile Arion vulgaris from Lower Austria.
Zwentibold
The Express quoted Paul Hetherington, director of communications at Buglife, as saying: “Slugs and snails kept laying eggs so there are a lot more of them being produced. We have had them all year round and the population is growing."
SlugWatch.uk describes the voraciousness of the Spanish slug, saying they will eat anything, including excrement, dead animals, and crops that aren’t normally susceptible to slug feeding. They will also push out other snail and slug species simply because of their large size and high population density.
SlugWatch also points out the large amounts of mucus produced by these slugs is actually a repellent to any predators. And horrors of horrors, these creatures also can self-fertilize, and that's not a good thing.
In August, Tim Sandle reported that Norway's political parties have called upon the population to put aside one hour twice per year for the hunting of Spanish Slugs. They have become a big agricultural nuisance because of their adaptation to a warmer and drier environment.
We won't even go into the other garden pests ready to eat your veggies and fruits. But suffice it to say that battling the Spanish slug will keep you busy enough. If you don't have your own foolproof method of getting rid of these slugs, the Daily Mail's web page has a slew of remedies for you to try.
Just a note to North American readers: The Spanish slug has not invaded the U.S. or Canada — yet.
More about spanish slugs, United Kingdom, Arion vulgaris, cannabilistic, Invasive species
 
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