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Attack of the killer slugs

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Attack of the killer slugs
Photo: Håkan Svensson, Marie Eriksson
17:04 CEST+02:00
Sweden's wet summer may have driven much of the human population indoors but for the country's growing numbers of Arion lusitanicus, or Spanish slugs, the moist conditions could not be more ideal.

Often referred to as 'killer slugs' - so called for their habit of eating the weak and dead of their own species - the slimy creatures have taken Sweden by storm in recent days.

Marie Eriksson from Töcksfors in western Sweden admits to never having experienced anything quite like this year's invasion.

"There has just been an explosion of them during the last week. We were away for a few days and when we came back they had eaten every potted plant in the garden," she told The Local.

Eriksson even has photographic evidence of Wednesday's haul: 900 slugs plucked from the garden and placed in a bucket of salty water.

Newspapers all over the country have been providing tips this week on how best to tackle the infestation. Vigilant gardeners are advised to choose from a number of methods, which include slicing off the slugs' heads and drowning them in boiling water.

Marie Eriksson describes waking up every morning to deal with the "gelatinous crust" that has settled on her garden.

"I've stopped counting but we have definitely captured a few thousand of them this week," she said.

With no natural enemies, the Iberian slug is free to wreak unchallenged havoc in the farms and gardens of Scandinavia.

The speed of their spread is also facilitated by the fact that the Arion lusitanicus is a hermaphrodite, meaning that each individual slug is capable of laying 400 eggs.

The slugs can grow to a length of around 15cm and are thought to have first arrived in northern Europe in the middle of the last century.

Desperation has begun to creep in over the last few days, with reports suggesting that Swedish gardeners have begun smuggling illegal pesticides into the country from Denmark and Germany.

Marie Eriksson is sticking to her tongs and bucket but she does not envisage the problem being solved any time soon.

"We don't know where they're coming from. It might be a compost heap or a neighbouring garden. A lot of our neighbours are having exactly the same problem and there's just no end in sight," she said.

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