I hate slugs. Hate is a big word, as I never stopped reminding my little Parrots, but I really mean it. It isn’t just that they aren’t pretty to look at, or that they chomp your bedding plants, or that they leave silvery trails over tidy brick work — they do horrible things. Like wrapping themselves round milk bottles that you don’t notice until they’re inside the house. Ugh!
But other than simple revulsion, I haven’t thought about slugs much. Where do the come from? Who cares — they’re here. Where do they go? Mostly into bags of salt. As for the escapees, well they just go, but you know they’ll be back next year.
Regular visitors may know that I’m reading Bill Bryson’s book, A Short History of Nearly Everything. Bill is a gifted and engaging writer, but even he surprised me with something new today — that slugs are pretty amazing creatures with one of life’s niftiest tricks.
They’re actually slime moulds or myxomycetes — they exist as single cells like amoebas, but suddenly they gather together and become, almost miraculously, a slug. That in itself is a pretty neat trick, but then they/it tops it all by becoming a plant. The cells reorder themselves to form a bulb that produces spores that releases them to the wind to start the process all over again.
I’m assuming that Bill has got the right end of this particularly slimy stick, but it is what you would call a call a surreal concept.
It’s something like a village or town full of people carrying on their business as usual, then suddenly merging to form, say a blue whale, then sticking it’s tail in the ground to become a tree, scattering children with little umbrellas to land far away to found new streets, villages and towns.