Rain showers brings invasion of giant slugs to gardens

Giant slugs.
Giant slugs. Source: ERR

With the humid weather at the start of July, slugs have once again become a topic of discussion in Estonia. Even as an invasive species, whose numbers reportedly took off after independence in the early 1990s, the slugs are hardly a new phenomenon, but still seem to be particularly sizeable and prevalent this year, daily Postimees reports.

In the Postimees piece (link in Estonian), a resident of one Tallinn suburb described the attack by the slugs as being like something out of a horror movie.

Speaking on Vikerraadio show "Uudis+", Uudo Timm, a leading specialist in the wildlife department of the Environmental Agency (Keskonnaamet), shed further light on the nature of the species, which usually appear in early July.

At just under six inches long, the yellow-and-orange-colored, so-called Spanish slugs (Arion vulgaris) have been seen in Estonia since the restoration of independence in 1991, when increased trade brought them into gardens with the imported seedlings, Timm said.

The species is a major destroyer of garden plants. One remedy, which involves gardeners taking the slugs into the forest and leaving them there - on the grounds that they supposedly can't survive away from cultivation - Timm said actually helps the spread. Timm also ruled out using poisons, because they can enter the food chain and indirectly end up on people's plates.

As a more environmentally-friendly, if hardly humane, option, the specialist advised gathering the slugs together and pouring boiling water on them.

Timm advised to carefully look through soil when buying the seedlings, as a further preemptive measure. There are rarely slugs themselves to be found, but their eggs - which look like little pearls - are often mistaken for fertilizer and sprinkled on the ground.

Timm added that the Spanish slug as a species manages quite well in Estonia's climate. He also drew attention to the bisexual nature of the animal, which means that once mated, they are be able to lay eggs for the rest of their lives.

Thus, prevention is the most effective way to get rid of the slugs, facilitated by the control of new seedlings and cooperation with neighbors.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Andrew Whyte

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