Slugs are among the most marvelous critters out there. Now, for the gardeners out there, who are thinking “That’s sacrilege!” hold off on your slug-judgement. Learning about the ecological benefits of slugs like the Blue-grey Taildropper will shine a new light on all things sluggy, and how to keep them off your lettuce.
The Blue-grey Taildropper is certainly the flashiest of all the slugs listed as species at risk in B.C. (There’s quite a few! Scroll down for a list of these slugs and where they are found). These small slugs (2-3cm as adults) though sometimes pale to dark grey in colour, can be an electric periwinkle shade of blue.
In B.C., the Blue-grey tail dropper inhabits moist micro-habitats of the relatively dry forests of southeastern Vancouver Island – Garry oak meadows and Douglas-fir forests. As HAT describes, “the slugs are found in moist microsites on the forest floor, such as within leaf litter, under Sword Ferns, within moss, or under decaying logs.”
Their name doesn’t only give away their appearance, it also hints at their ‘superpower’. Like all “traildropper” slugs, the Blue-grey Taildropper can detach part of its tail when seized or threatened by predators. You may have heard about sea stars or lizards who can do something similar. Scientists call this phenomenon of abandoning body parts “autotomy”.
Dense shrubby areas also provide suitable sites. As part of these forest communities, Blue-grey Taildropper slugs play a special ecological role. They eat fungi, and distribute fungal spores though their droppings. Fungal networks called mycorrhiza form important symbiotic relationships with the roots of trees and other plants, and play a vital role in the overall health of ecosystems. Blue-grey Taildroppers are an endangered, red listed species.
Plant native species! These provide habitat for all sorts of critters – and especially for invertebrates like native slugs and bees. Use “monkey fingers” (your own dexterous digits) NOT slug-bait to control slugs in your garden. Slug bait will kill both invasive and native, at risk slugs, as well as potentially harming other wildlife that feed on slugs.There are a few things we can all do to help improve conditions for native, at-risk slugs and the roles they play in ecosystems. Slugs need habitat and corridors – garden with slugs in mind. The ecosystem, your plants, and even you will benefit. While talking or spending time with your plants may or may not help them grow better (I swear it works!), spending time outside and with your plants will help your own mental, physical and emotional well-being. And that’s a fact!
If you live in an area with a slug species at risk, work with a conservation organization to survey and monitor populations on or near where you live. For info specifically on blue-grey tail dropper conservation contact HAT.
Last but not least – some other at risk slugs in B.C. include:
1) Warty Jumping-slug – southern Vancouver Island; Blue listed
2) Scarletback Taildropper slug – Coastal B.C., Haida Gwaii, Vancouver Island; Blue listed
3) Pygmy Slug – extreme southeastern B.C.; Red listed
4) Pale Jumping-slug – mid- southeastern B.C.; Blue listed