The Norwich scientist who recorded the UK’s first confirmed “killer slug” sighting last week has appealed for the public’s help in assessing the threat from the invasive species.

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Dr Ian Bedford, head of entomology at the John Innes Centre (JIC) in Colney, identified the Spanish slug at his home in Cringleford, after the creatures had appeared in large numbers and devoured his vegetable patch.

The species earned its “killer” nickname from its aggressive and cannibalistic tendencies and has become a serious pest in mainland Europe, where it is known to attack crops and eat dead animals.

So Dr Bedford, along with his colleagues at the Norwich Research Park and universities in Aberdeen and Newcastle, has launched a project to learn more about the slug’s distribution and behaviour.

He has urged anyone, including gardeners, growers and farmers, to report unusually large numbers of slugs or strange behaviour and eating habits, along with a location and, preferably, a postcode.

“We have to understand this slug’s biology before we can find a way to fight it,” said Dr Bedford.

“At the moment, we don’t know very much at all, apart from the fact that they are here. There have been lots of stories going around, but not very much evidence. That is where the public can help us.

“We don’t expect people to be able to identify which species they have seen, but we would be very grateful if people could report unusual activity, or if they have seen slugs in very large numbers.

“We’re not talking about one or two at a time – it would have to be amazing numbers, like I have had here where you could easily go and collect a hundred of them, and see them eating things they would not normally eat, like the tops of onions and potato foliage.

“We also want to hear from commercial growers who have been unable to control slugs in the last year. We have heard some people put problems down to the wet weather, but those problems could also be linked to the Spanish slugs.”

The Spanish slug, which can grow up to 15cm long, is usually brown or reddish brown, but Dr Bedford said he had found specimens which were orange, yellow or black.

He said: “The morphological features can vary so much and we don’t know if they have bred, so we need to kick-start this research – and the first step is to pull together and find as much data as possible about where these slugs have become established.”

Dr Bedford can be contacted by emailing ian.bedford@jic.ac.uk or via Twitter: @drianbedford.

5 comments

  • I had these unusually coloured slugs in the garden for the first time this last summer as did my neighbours. Not in any great number but disposed of with slug pellets. Did not notice any difference in 'behaviour' to any other slug. Bit late to be running this article now it's winter and we have 3" snow on the ground?

    Report this comment

    JanieH

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • The Daily Snail ran with this story back in summer, time for yourselves to speed up with more current news.

    Report this comment

    nrg

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • By Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall from River Cottage 2009 METHOD First purge the slugs by feeding them for five days on a single-item diet of lettuce, cabbage or carrot peelings. Then starve the slugs for two days more to remove any remaining digested matter in their systems (this step is optional, but if you don't do it, you will have to gut them). Put the slugs in the freezer to kill them. Make up a solution of equal quantities of vinegar and water and soak the frozen slugs in it for a few minutes to begin drawing out their slime. Put them in a pan of cold water with a dash of vinegar and bring up to a simmer. More slime will come out. Drain the slugs and rinse them under the tap, removing the slime with your fingers. Repeat the simmering and rinsing, with fresh water and vinegar each time, at least three more times, until no more slime comes out. Put the slugs in a pan of fresh water with some sliced carrot and onion and a bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and cook until the slugs are tender - probably just 5-8 minutes. If you need to gut the slugs, make a slit one-third of the way down the back of the body and remove the intestines......yummy!!!

    Report this comment

    nrg

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • Don't you just love this! Boffins bleeding millions out of the public purse to keep them in employment pursuing their hobbies. How does one get in on their act. Today the EDP reported another one of these vitally important public servants getting almost a million to investigate how plants photosynthesize. The world's gone mad I tell you!

    Report this comment

    Mr Cameron Isaliar

    Monday, January 21, 2013

  • I had these unusually coloured slugs in the garden for the first time this last summer as did my neighbours. Not in any great number but disposed of with slug pellets. Did not notice any difference in 'behaviour' to any other slug. Bit late to be running this article now it's winter and we have 3" snow on the ground?

    Report this comment

    JanieH

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

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