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The Daily Bucket is a place where we share our observations about the natural world. Whether we note the first flowers of spring or the appearance of a new bug, we are building a resource to learn more about the patterns of nature and how they may be changing. Everyone is welcome to contribute!  Just tell us what you are seeing in your backyard or wherever you are roaming and approximately where your observations come from.
NE Corner of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.

When most people think of the Pacific Northwest, they imagine rain, rainforests, snow-covered mountains, salmon, and more rain.  And, of course, this critter which is my garden nemesis.

Banana Slug

I woke up this morning to view the slimy "sole" of a Banana Slug crawling up the outside of my study window. Here in the Pacific NorthWet, we use the term "Banana Slug" to describe several species of really big slugs.  They don't all have to be the yellow color of bananas.  They can range from white to black and sometimes have interesting spots.  

Ariolimax Columbianus
Did I mention they can be really big? The Pacific Banana Slug (above) can grow up to 8 inches long.  This European Black Slug (below) is about average for its species.
Arion ater (European black slug)
Avion ater
Just imagine what one of these slugs can do to seedlings in your garden overnight! First thing each morning, I do my "slug walk" during which I skewer any slugs that have gotten into my raised beds.  Slug-kabobs anyone? Other folks use the traditional beer traps.  They do work - the beer attracts the slugs and they drown (happily, we presume).  Unfortunately, one of my dogs developed a taste for beer.  She dug up the trap, drank the beer, then brought the empty container back to me as if asking for a refill.

Outside of my garden, I let them live.  Afterall, I moved into their coastal coniferous forest habitat when I built my house here.  They are great recyclers of decaying plant matter and they help to disperse seeds and spores.  They are welcome to live in my compost pile.

They are actually fascinating slime-based creatures.  They depend on secreting several different kinds of mucus for locomotion, self-defense, protection against dehydration, and even navigation.  Their predators need to deal with extra thick slime that they secrete when threatened - one technique being to roll them in dirt to bind the mucus.  They might even be considered pretty.  Notice the ruffled skirt around the base of the Pacific Banana Slug and the pleats behind the mantle of the European Black Slug.

To help us learn to love Banana Slugs, here's an excerpt of lyrics from a song about them:

Banana Slug, Banana Slug, I like them, they’re beautiful
Banana Slug, Banana Slug, They’re part of the circle.
Sticky as peanut butter, shade of yellow, Look like banana and oh so mellow
Good life givers, living on the ground, Chewing on leaves when they fall down.
On the side of their head there’s an all-purpose hole, they’ve got one foot and plenty of soul.
This is from a music CD entitled "Dirt Made My Lunch" by The Banana Slug String Band.  If you ever need a gift for kids, check them out. This group mades great educational music on topics of science and ecology.  

What's eating your garden today?

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