What are Cellar Slugs?
The Yellow Cellar Slug (Limacus flavus) was first recorded in the UK in 1884. In the 1970’s a second similar looking species was recognised, first in Ireland then spreading quickly throughout the UK, the Green Cellar Slug (Limacus maculatus). Since then, records of the Yellow Slug have declined sharply.
Has the Green Cellar Slug taken over? Are we about to witness the extinction of a slug in Britain? We need your help to find out!
We invite you to look for both or either of these species, and help us identify what garden features may influence where these slugs are residing.
Both these slug species are known to be detritivores, feeding on decaying plant material in gardens. They are not considered plant pests as they do not feed on live plant material.
Doing a slug hunt
- Grab a torch and go on a slug hunt in your garden after dark to see if you can find this nocturnal species
- Take photographs showing the top view of each slug (you may want to move the slugs somewhere light to do this)
- Match your slug to the ID guide to see what species you have
- Keep a note of how long you spent searching and how many of these slugs you found
- Also note if you find these slugs on a plant and what type of plant it is (if known)
- Go to the Cellar Slug recording form on iRecord and enter your survey data. You don’t have to register, but you will be asked to provide an email address so that the RHS and iRecord expert verifiers can contact you if they have questions about your record. You may wish to register with the iRecord website so that you can keep track of your records and go back to them if needed.
Identifying the slugs
The Leopard Slug (Limax maximus) has been included in the ID guide as it is strikingly similar in size, appearance and nocturnal behaviour. We also welcome records of this slug through the survey form, though it is not the target of our research.
Download the slug ID guide
Example of a useful photograph:
Yellow Cellar Slug (Limacus flavus): Tentacle colour visible, long unbroken yellow stripe on centre of tail visible
Describing your garden
We need to know a little about your garden including; the location, the size and what type of features are in your garden.
Also, we'd like to hear about any steps taken currently or previously to try to manage slugs and snails in your garden e.g. slug pellets, nematode treatments, beer traps, barrier materials.
Give the location, as precisely as you can e.g. six figure grid reference. You can do this simply on the iRecord form by zooming in and out on the interactive map.
How do I decide what features my garden has?
Provide details on the approximate size of your garden (in m2 or ft2).
Look at what different features are in your garden using the categories below and estimate by eye what area of the garden each type of feature covers (in m2 or ft2).
- trees (canopy cover)
- shrubs (<5m high)
- mown lawn
- uncut grass
- paved area
- gravel area
- wooden decking
- uncultivated ground
- vegetable plot
- cultivated flower bed
- Other – anything that doesn’t fit with the above (please specify in comments box)
Also let us know if you have any of the following in your garden:
- compost bin/ heap
- garden walls
- water features (ponds, fountains etc.)
We hope to discover if any of these garden features are linked with where these species are found.
What else do we want to know?
All these fields are optional, but the more information you can provide the better:
The Yellow Cellar Clug is thought to be strongly associated with buildings, so it would be useful if you could tell us how far the slugs were from nearest inhabited building (in m or ft) when you found them.
If the slug was found on a plant we would like to know the name of the plant and whether there were any signs of grazing damage to the plant. While these slugs are not plant feeders, anecdotal evidence suggests they may do so opportunistically.
Submitting your record
Submit your findings via the wildlife observation website iRecord - operated by the Biological Records Centre.
You do not have to sign up to the website to submit your data, but we ask that you provide an email address so our scientists can contact you if we have questions about your record.
If you have any concerns or questions about participating in this survey please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
When should I look for these slugs?
Both cellar slug species are highly nocturnal, which is why we ask you to look for them after dark when the slugs are active. You can also find these sociable species resting underneath logs, paving, in drains and under other objects during the day. Here they form characteristic ‘huddles’ thought to help conserve moisture. You may find both cellar slug species in the same huddle!
What should I do with these slugs after I have found them?
Both species of cellar slugs are not considered plant pests and have a homing instinct. After taking your photographs we ask that you return any of these slugs to where you found them if possible.
How long do these slugs live?
Both these species can live for several years.
What do they eat?
Cellar slugs graze on algae, fungi and detritus. They can also be attracted to leftover food. The Green Cellar Slug has also been recorded eating damp wallpaper and pet food.
Why is the Yellow Cellar Slug thought to be in decline?
In the past 50 years the Green Cellar Slug appears to be replacing the Yellow Cellar Slug throughout the UK. It’s unclear why this is happening. It is possible the Green Cellar Slug is better at surviving in our landscape and climate. It’s been suggested that the Yellow Cellar Slug may be negatively impacted by the renovation of old buildings. However, evidence has shown that the two species interbreed, producing hybrids that are most similar to the Green Cellar Slug.
Who is doing this study and why?
This survey is part of a PhD project with Newcastle University, Royal Horticultural Society, and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, who are collaborating to combine their expertise on slug and snail biology, and biological recording.
The overall aim of this project is to identify which species of slug and snail are present in UK gardens, which are causing damage to plants, which may be beneficial, and their abundance. The results of the project will be communicated back to survey participants and published on the web and in horticultural media for the public. It will also be used to improve the advice the RHS gives to the public.
The RHS is carrying out this survey in partnership with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH). Both the RHS and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) are the Joint Data Controllers for the Data collected and processed for the purposes of this survey. The data is being submitted to an external platform iRecord, which is a website for sharing wildlife observations. It is run and funded by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) within the work programme of the Biological Records Centre (BRC). To understand what data iRecord collects and how it is used see their privacy notice.
When you submit records to iRecord, your name will be included alongside the survey information (including location and time of record) to form the ‘biological record’. This information will be shared with scientists at the RHS who may contact you with queries about the records you provide for the purpose of validating and verifying the survey data.
We will have access to the following personal data about you:
- Name (as a recorder)
- Email address
- Location and date of any biological records you submit
Thank you to Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales for allowing us to use their excellent slug images. Find out more about the project these images came from.