African black slug serves as healthy reminder

Jun 19, 2013 by Rod Santa Ana
The African black slug is endemic to Asia and the Caribbean. It was recently found in Harligen and is considered an invasive species. Credit: AgriLife Extension photo by Rod Santa Ana

A new, invasive species of slug found recently in South Texas serves as a good reminder to thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before eating them, according to an expert with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Several specimens found in March in a new residential area of Harlingen have since been identified as African black slugs, said Dr. Raul Villanueva, an entomologist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco.

They were identified by mollusk specialists at a laboratory of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Beltsville, Md., he said.

"The African black slug originated in Africa and is now endemic to Asia and several islands in the Caribbean," Villanueva said. "How it got here is anybody's guess. It could have come in on imported plants, turf, produce— who knows? It hides very well among all those products."

This is only the second find ever of the African black slug in the U. S., Villanueva said. The first find, also in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, occurred in the 1980s, but was eradicated with chemical pesticide baits called molluscicides.

"Fortunately, we have never found the nematode that can be carried by the African black slug," he said. "These nematodes, or tiny worms, pose serious health risks to humans, including meningitis. But the nematode has never been detected here. Nevertheless, it's a good idea to thoroughly wash before consuming them."

The African black slug is a slimy, black mollusk about an inch long with a distinctive white mark on its back, unlike several harmless species of black slugs native to the Lower Rio Grande Valley that are solid black.

"So far, there have been only a few of these African black slugs found in one localized urban area of Harlingen," Villanueva said. "Others have been found nearby, but they are very slow movers, so it's not likely they will spread."

Residents of the area in Harlingen where they were found have been advised to treat their lawns and not handle slugs if they find one, he said. Should anybody touch one, they are advised to wash their hands. If they must be handled, wear gloves or us forceps.

African black slugs feed on plants at night to avoid the heat of the sun, which can quickly dry them out, Villanueva said.

"They require high humidity and moist areas to reproduce and thrive, so our Valley weather is not their ideal habitat. It's highly unlikely they will survive here, but as always, it's important that people wash fruits and vegetables to avoid pathogens of all kinds."

Explore further: Thirty new marine protected areas declared in Scotland

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Palm tree-killing weevil found in South Texas

Oct 23, 2012

An intensive, area-wide survey of the Lower Rio Grande Valley has detected the presence of a palm tree-killing weevil that has caused extensive damage in other parts of the world, according to Dr. Raul Villanueva, ...

Farmers markets driving tomato research

Feb 07, 2013

The emergence of farmers markets in the Lower Rio Grande Valley has led to new research that shows planting dates affect the productivity of organic tomatoes, according to an expert at the Texas A&M AgriLife ...

Invasion of the slugs—halted by worms...

May 12, 2013

The gardener's best friend, the earthworm, is great at protecting leaves from being chomped by slugs, suggests research in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Ecology. Although they lurk in the soil, they seem to pro ...

A new species of yellow slug moth from China

Jun 04, 2013

The moth genus Monema is represented by medium-sized yellowish species. The genus belongs to the Limacodidae family also known as the slug moths due to the distinct resemblance of their caterpillars to som ...

Slug-eating dare sparks Australia health alarm

May 13, 2010

Australian health authorities Thursday warned people against eating raw slugs after a man who reportedly ingested one as a dare became critically ill with a rare form of meningitis.

Slug ecology and management in no-till field crops

Mar 14, 2012

As acreage of row crops managed with conservation tillage increases, more growers are encountering slugs, elevating their importance as crop pests. Slugs can eat virtually all crops, and they are challenging ...

Recommended for you

Study indicates large raptors in Africa used for bushmeat

17 hours ago

Bushmeat, the use of native animal species for food or commercial food sale, has been heavily documented to be a significant factor in the decline of many species of primates and other mammals. However, a new study indicates ...

Noise pollution impacts fish species differently

20 hours ago

Acoustic disturbance has different effects on different species of fish, according to a new study from the Universities of Bristol and Exeter which tested fish anti-predator behaviour.

User comments : 0