As the rain clouds drift away and the leaves begin to dry, have you ever noticed lacy, slimy paths all over your patio? This delicate evidence of a slug roadway may be the most appealing aspect of slugs, since unlike snails, they have no decorated and patterned shells to leave behind as souvenirs.
The slugs leaving these trails spent a long time getting from one side of the patio to another. One of the slower species, unlikely to live in a backyard but featured on this page, are banana slugs. Although they are the second largest slugs in the world, with some indivduals ten inches in length, they only travel around 32.5 feet or 10 meters an hour. So in ten minutes, they can move around 5 1/2 feet.
They can follow these painstakingly-made trails many days later by recognizing their own chemical composition. Even from fall to spring, banana slugs have been known to find their old homes.
And although their horizontal movement is slow, they can accomplish a controlled vertical fall by hanging on a trail of slime from a low-hanging branch down to the ground. This feat reminds me of spiders without the appeal of a silk mode of transport.
A slug moves by rippling its foot in a wave-like pattern. One section rises up while other sections remain flat. The foot contains the stomach, and this feature gives rise to the scientifc classication to which slugs and many snails belong: gastropod, or stomach foot.
The combined effect of moving foot and bright yellow color make the banana slug an interesting creature to encounter of a forest walk. Actually not all banana slugs are yellow. Some can be white, black, tan or brown. They often have spots, so that the yellow ones take on the enhanced appearance of rotten bananas.
Banana slugs are found in forest habitats. Since slugs do not require calcium to produce shells, they are able to inhabit areas lacking calcium in the soil. In this way, they can take over certain areas from snails. However, they face the drawback that they cannot draw back into shells in dry conditions, and so they are generally found only in damp places.
To learn more about banana slugs and slugs in general, refer to The Western Society of Malocogists Field Guide to the Slug by David George Gordon.
A fun item to order for children is Banana Slug Gummy Candy: realistic, yellow, and banana-flavored!
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