Slug Love is True Love

Sundae Horn

October was slug orgy month on my front porch.

Slug Love is True Love

Leopard slugs (Limax maximus) aren't indigenous to the U.S., but they are found in 46 states and Ocracoke. Our yard, with its abundant vegetation and damp leafmeal, is a veritable dream habitat for the mucus-y mollusk. At dusk, the slugs come out and slime around our porches and decks and garden beds. We give them a wide berth (it's an argument in our house: which is worse, stepping on a slug or an overripe fig?), occasionally drown a few in beer around the tomato plants, and often remark on how enormous they are. (Leopard slugs can grow to a length of 8 inches.) We have a family habit of happily exclaiming, "Hey! The slugs are back!" when we come home and see them on the sidewalk and front porch. It's the caption of a favorite Gary Larson cartoon from years ago and is perennially funny to Capt. Rob. 

This year, the slugs surprised me for real. I saw something that can't be unseen. Then I saw it again and finally – third time's a charm – snapped a photo. Two slugs were dangling from a thread of sticky slime and gently twisting in the breeze. I was pretty sure I was witnessing something, ahem, private, between these two critters, and I was also pretty sure it was a sack of slug eggs I saw hanging below the lovers. 

Boy, was I wrong. That pale blue translucent lump is the entwined sexy parts of the two slugs.

Here's what Wikipedia tells us: 

"The mating habits of Limax maximus are considered unusual among slugs: the hermaphrodite slugs court, usually for hours, by circling and licking each other. After this, the slugs will climb into a tree or other high area and then, entwined together, lower themselves on a thick string of mucus, evert their white translucent mating organs (penises) from their gonopores (openings on the right side of the head), entwine these organs, and exchange sperm. Both participants will later lay hundreds of eggs."

Not only that, but those "translucent mating organs" are as long as the slug itself, and appear blue-ish because of pulsing bodily fluids. The slugs have to hang upside-down because their penises are too heavy to lift out of their heads, and need the pull of gravity to help.

Giant blue slug penises! Who knew?

Slugs are hermaphrodites, which means they can mate with any other slug they find. (I'll fertilize your eggs, if you fertilize mine.) But they can also fertilize their own eggs and don't need a partner at all, so despite the obvious erotic enticement of hours-long aerial lovemaking, most slugs are soloists and never mate. The ones that do are true doomed romantics – once they've met Mr./Ms. Right, they never settle for less. The slugs lucky enough to mate are one-and-done. So the three copulating couples I saw were all different, and I was privileged (?) to see such a rare event more than once. Either that, or the humid sea air and mouldering live oaks leaves make OcraSlugs randier than mainland slugs. Ocracoke is a romantic, fantasy island for all her creatures.

Slug Love is True Love

There was another witness to the madness. My daughter, Caroline, was home for a weekend and I made her look at the first pair. "This could be us, but you playin'," she said, which is, apparently, something the young folk say when they point out happier couples to their non-commital boos. I texted the photo to her and suggested she tweet it with that caption, which she did by taking a screen shot of my text and tweeting it with #momgoals. That's what the young folk say when they want you to know that their mom is cooler than your mom because she texts about slug sex.

Hey! The slugs are back at it! 




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