I spied a hyphenated slug trail the other day.
Slug trails themselves are not at all unusual around here. We have lots of slugs, and they’re always trying to get somewhere else, even if the place they end up isn’t any different from where they started. The main reason a slug produces a snot trail is to make a Slip ‘N’ Slide so it doesn’t scratch up its belly. (It’s not really called a belly–they call that whole bottom portion a “foot,” even though it’s really more like a zamboni.) Also, it is thought that other slugs can find each other by following their trails if they’re feeling sociable. And, of course, theoretically an individual can always use them to find its way back to where it’s been, although it never does.
There are many uses for the mucus they produce to make their trails. One memorable ancestral slug of my youth used his to make sure I never walked barefoot in the grass again. Human observers are able to examine the slug’s thought process by means of its trail, which usually wraps up in less than the width of a standard sidewalk. There’s the heroic first sally, followed by an arc of doubt, indecision, looping, and despair, culminating in desiccation or the Rapture, depending. The Rapture, in slugdom, is when the good slugs are lifted up and go straight to bird shit.
This particular slug trail worried me because it was like when you don’t have enough paint on your roller and there are dry bits on your wall at regular intervals. Slugs need a lot of paint on their rollers. They manufacture mucus from an area just below their mouths, right about where their foot starts.
At first I was very excited about my hyphenated slug trail in case it was evidence of a sense of sluggular humor. Slugs are known for randiness and ick, but not really humor, so much. But what I saw on the sidewalk was precisely the joke in the comic strip Family Circus. Little Billy is supposed to come straight home but never does. He goes all over the place! Ha ha! It’s such a staple of hilarity you can count on seeing it every couple weeks. Could my hyphenated gastropod be pulling a funny? Comedy has to start somewhere. There’s a lot of evolution involved before you get to true stand-up, as pioneered by the meerkat family.
We like it damp here, and so do slugs. You could dang near navigate by slug trail on a full moon night. So when a Facebook friend posted a photo of a heavily slimed tree and asked whatever it could be–tree sap was the prevailing guess–I informed him he was looking at the aftermath of a slug orgy. I was right, too, but for some reason no one believes me anymore. [At least, not since the time I declared that a group of caterpillars once beat up a famous entomologist, trashed his place, stole his coin collection, and bought a bunch of meth.]
But I knew it was a slug orgy because one of the many things slugs do with their vaunted mucus is goo themselves up to a tree branch and hang from a slime string to have sex, and lots of it, and they aren’t at all averse to doing it in a group. Everybody has the same equipment. A slug is not just an undifferentiated bag of snot: each slug has one vagina, one penis, one nostril, one mouth, one anus, and one foot. Pity the poor forensic artist who has to work with that description.
The hyphens! That’s it! Slugs got only one foot! They’re hopping!
How come slugs get such a bad rap? You have shown that they are a lot of fun to have around and might make good pets if given enough habitat for their randy lifestyle.
It's the snot, Jono. If it weren't for all the mucus, people would probably think that slugs were pretty dang cute. This, incidentally, is why I keep my distance from small children; it's the snot.
Snot is one of those other things that ooze out of those little leaky ankle biters.
I have nothing to add here. "It's the snot, Jono" is a marvel of concision.
So . . . did you ever find out if a hyphenated snail trail is a scientific thing?
"The Rapture, in slugdom, is when the good slugs are lifted up and go straight to bird S**t." LOL!
I don't particularly like snails just because of the slimy factor, but an avid gardener I know takes great delight in cutting them in half with her pruning shears, and it makes me want to punch her. Hard.
Eww. My sister used to do the same thing, only with a narrow trowel, effecting immediate burial to lessen the ick factor. I can't do that. But I sympathize, as a gardener.
I used to live in slug heaven, on a wet hillside over a lake. They were capable of wiping out a whole row of baby lettuces overnight. I would do a slug walk every evening in gardening season. With scissors.
One night, I counted 120 slugs in that quick walk.
I think they were Buddhist slugs; they reincarnated immediately.
This year we have gobs of snails. Not as many slugs. No homeless problem in this yard!
I've always rather liked the banana slugs common in the Pacific Northwest. Slugs big enough to throw saddles on are definitely an improvement over the little animated blobs of snot common here in Michigan. The banana slugs may have been a gardener's living nightmare but at least they were so big it was easy to avoid stepping on them.
When I first moved here my dad came out and we did a hike in the woods. First time either of us saw a banana slug, he whipped out his tripod and camera (they don't move fast) and had at it. Thought he'd found the Secretariat of Slugs. Then he packed up and we saw about fifty more even bigger ones.
Oh, but your fascination, your joy in the shared discovery of such a creature, although brief, was the real thing. Some people go their whole lives and never share such stuff, never discover anything more compelling than the remote stuck down in the sofa cushion. Thank you for sharing that dad memory…Mine passed away this spring at age 91. <3
I remember camping in Oregon for the first time. We hit the campground late so didn't bother to pitch a tent, just threw our sleeping bags on the pad. Woke up the next morning eye to eye with a 3-inch, green, definitely slimy Oregon slug. What a great intro to Oregon! Being from California and thinking slugs were exotic, I moved north as soon as I could. And I've since learned how to keep slugs away from my dahlias.
Susan, if we're lucky we will always miss our dads.
Whimsy, I remember a booze-filled party at a friend's house that is still famous for the guest who fell asleep in the bushes and woke up with a slug trail on his face.
A slug is not a busy bee,
But hangs his snot upon a tree
Or upon the sidewalk where
You'll step in it if you don't use care!!
But if you use sufficient care,
You'll find a useful pathway there;
Be mindful of the skippy pace
And tread upon the empty space.
A rented house we lived in was damp. Very damp though the landlord denied it. One night doing the dreaded 2am toilet walk I trod on a slug. No more sleep that night. And a fairly speedy change of address.
Yeah. Yeah. I never realized how fast you can go from zero to barf.
Guernville, CA in March:
Nice! I'm going to make it easier for everyone to read that article.
Cracked me up! GAG
I went to it in '82,declined slug ice cream, slug milkshakes and slug beer. Later in the spring I went to the Gilroy Garlic Festival and ate everything.
Yeah. That's diff'rent.
We've the banana slug down around our neck of the woods. As I kid, I used to try and pet them. Slimy, good fun.
Even though Dave grew up here, he had never picked up a banana slug, and when I came on the scene, he got the zany idea it would be fun to pick one up and chase me around with it. I was horrified he'd pick it up and he immediately recoiled himself. He had no idea how slimy they are.
When we lived near Mukilteo, Washington, my 10-year-old child had two pet banana slugs, Lenny and Squiggy. Slugs big enough to have personalities are definitely easier to deal with than the littler ones.
Slick Willy would be another good name.
That slug had hiccups.
Thing is, now I'm seeing those everywhere. Do you think it's a sign of the drought?
Found an article titled The Loping of Land Snails, and it seems that the dotted line is a result of the snail trying to evade danger…a snail going at top speed, as it were.
You are a marvel.
This is the ONLY blog I read that always makes me laugh out loud!
Now I feel sorry for all the other blogs! Thanks!
What seems to you slug hyphenation
Is just foreplay to procreation…
humpa humpa burnin' love
A tree trunk covered in slug slime is something I have never seen. And in hot, dry Australia, I probably never will. Funny to think of them hopping along, I thought they just slid like snails do.
Yeah, well so did we all, until Leslie Hawes up there found that ancient abstract about hopping slugs.
I'm a marvel. And I have the google machine.
Dear Murr, It's been years (2012, Oct.6, "Trainride of The Enigmas")since I wrote about snot. It was a post cleverly entitled "Snot". For 6 years, I felt very much alone after transcribing my conversation with a slug. But reading your post has renewed my faith in interspecies cultural understanding between bipeds and gastropods. Brava!
Thanks. I'm not really sure they understand the first thing about us. They are on chomping terms with my hostas, however.
When we lived up North on an island in the Pacific rain forest in the Gulf of Alaska, garden slugs were common as red ants in Texas. One day I saw a banana lying on the ground outside, and saying to myself, 'Tch, with fruit *so* expensive the kids just toss it!' and picked it up, or at least tried to. It was my 1st encounter with the banana slug. We retreated in different directions. I made more noise. In 2010, while living in our RV in the Okanagan Desert in British Columbia I came upon a slug orgy, well, I lie, the cat found them and asked "WHAT IS THAT?" I was too embarrassed to explain slug sex to the cat – he was only eight years old. But complete with dirty movie of slugs making whoopee, I posted it on my own blog. http://suresimple.blogspot.com/search?q=slug