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The Spanish Are Not Just Super Footballers

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Gardeners fight back against invasion of Spanish super slugs

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After a period of dismal weather comes a new nightmare for gardeners — a big alien slug whose numbers are growing.

The past three months of heavy rain and a few warm spells have created perfect conditions for slugs. The silvery slimey trails criss-crossing gardens tell the story of a mass attack, with B&Q reporting a 74 per cent increase in sales of slug pellets so far this year compared with last year.

But a far worse attack is under way from a voracious slug that has arrived from Spain.

The Arion flagellus, known as the Spanish stealth slug, threatens to wipe out our native British slugs, using its superior powers of breeding and survival. This invader, which is a sickly olive-greenish colour, grows to more than 10cm (4in) long and has a rampant breeding cycle that produces hundreds more eggs than the typical British slug.

The invaders are also hybridising with our native slugs, producing vigorous and powerful creatures capable of faster reproduction and over-running our native gastropods. In the US North West, the hybrids have become so numerous that they are a threat to motorists. When they get squashed, they turn into huge, dangerous slicks of slime, made worse by the slugs’ habit of turning cannibal on their dead fellows.

Les Noble, a slug expert at Aberdeen University, fears that Britain does not take the threat seriously enough. He is seeing the Spanish stealth slug and its hybrids spreading across fields and gardens, and has already spotted the signs of a population explosion of squashed slugs smeared across roads in areas of high rainfall such as North Wales and the uplands of the West Country.

“The concern is that the invasive species is carrying diseases and parasites that are going to wipe out our native slugs,†said Dr Noble. “Our slugs self-fertilise and are so highly inbred they can’t keep pace with new diseases and parasites, and together with several other snails may become extinct.â€

Another Spanish slug, Arion vulgaris, is on the rampage in northern Europe and has already laid waste gardens and farms in Norway.

http://www.thetimes....icle3462523.ece

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