Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Arion vulgaris
(Spanish slug)

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Datasheet

Arion vulgaris (Spanish slug)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 16 February 2022
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Arion vulgaris
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Spanish slug
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Mollusca
  •       Class: Gastropoda
  •         Subclass: Pulmonata
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Arion vulgaris is a slug native to southern France and Catalonia in Spain, that has since spread to much of central, northern and eastern Europe. It is considered to be invasive across western and central Europe, from the Pyrenees to east...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Egg mass of A. vulgaris in soil.
TitleOva
CaptionEgg mass of A. vulgaris in soil.
CopyrightB. Speiser/FiBL Switzerland
Egg mass of A. vulgaris in soil.
OvaEgg mass of A. vulgaris in soil.B. Speiser/FiBL Switzerland
Two differently coloured juvenile A. vulgaris. Note the dark lateral bands on the slugs.
TitleColour morphs
CaptionTwo differently coloured juvenile A. vulgaris. Note the dark lateral bands on the slugs.
CopyrightB. Speiser/FiBL Switzerland
Two differently coloured juvenile A. vulgaris. Note the dark lateral bands on the slugs.
Colour morphsTwo differently coloured juvenile A. vulgaris. Note the dark lateral bands on the slugs.B. Speiser/FiBL Switzerland
Adult A. vulgaris in copula.
TitleAdult
CaptionAdult A. vulgaris in copula.
CopyrightB. Speiser/FiBL Switzerland
Adult A. vulgaris in copula.
AdultAdult A. vulgaris in copula.B. Speiser/FiBL Switzerland
Adult A. vulgaris fully extended.
TitleAdult
CaptionAdult A. vulgaris fully extended.
CopyrightB. Speiser/FiBL Switzerland
Adult A. vulgaris fully extended.
AdultAdult A. vulgaris fully extended.B. Speiser/FiBL Switzerland
Lettuce damaged by A. vulgaris (a) and undamaged (b).
TitleField damage
CaptionLettuce damaged by A. vulgaris (a) and undamaged (b).
CopyrightB. Speiser/FiBL Switzerland
Lettuce damaged by A. vulgaris (a) and undamaged (b).
Field damageLettuce damaged by A. vulgaris (a) and undamaged (b).B. Speiser/FiBL Switzerland
Bean plant damaged by A. vulgaris.
TitleField damage
CaptionBean plant damaged by A. vulgaris.
CopyrightB. Speiser/FiBL Switzerland
Bean plant damaged by A. vulgaris.
Field damageBean plant damaged by A. vulgaris.B. Speiser/FiBL Switzerland
Pumpkin damaged by A. vulgaris. Note extensive damage (arrowed) to pumpkin skin and additional damage to stalk.
TitleField damage
CaptionPumpkin damaged by A. vulgaris. Note extensive damage (arrowed) to pumpkin skin and additional damage to stalk.
CopyrightB. Speiser/FiBL Switzerland
Pumpkin damaged by A. vulgaris. Note extensive damage (arrowed) to pumpkin skin and additional damage to stalk.
Field damagePumpkin damaged by A. vulgaris. Note extensive damage (arrowed) to pumpkin skin and additional damage to stalk.B. Speiser/FiBL Switzerland
Juvenile of pale phase.  Starcross, England.
TitleJuvenile
CaptionJuvenile of pale phase. Starcross, England.
CopyrightRoy Anderson
Juvenile of pale phase.  Starcross, England.
JuvenileJuvenile of pale phase. Starcross, England.Roy Anderson
Brown and black variant of dark phase.  Antrim, Co. Antrim, Ireland.
TitleBrown and black variants
CaptionBrown and black variant of dark phase. Antrim, Co. Antrim, Ireland.
CopyrightRoy Anderson
Brown and black variant of dark phase.  Antrim, Co. Antrim, Ireland.
Brown and black variantsBrown and black variant of dark phase. Antrim, Co. Antrim, Ireland.Roy Anderson
Juvenile of dark phase. Honau, Germany.
TitleJuvenile
CaptionJuvenile of dark phase. Honau, Germany.
CopyrightRoy Anderson
Juvenile of dark phase. Honau, Germany.
JuvenileJuvenile of dark phase. Honau, Germany.Roy Anderson
Red form of dark phase, in copula. Note dark underlying pigment in pneuostome (arrowed).  Honau, Schwäbiacher Alb, Germany.
TitleRed form
CaptionRed form of dark phase, in copula. Note dark underlying pigment in pneuostome (arrowed). Honau, Schwäbiacher Alb, Germany.
CopyrightRoy Anderson
Red form of dark phase, in copula. Note dark underlying pigment in pneuostome (arrowed).  Honau, Schwäbiacher Alb, Germany.
Red formRed form of dark phase, in copula. Note dark underlying pigment in pneuostome (arrowed). Honau, Schwäbiacher Alb, Germany.Roy Anderson
Pale phase in copula.  Starcross, Devon, England.
TitlePale phase
CaptionPale phase in copula. Starcross, Devon, England.
CopyrightRoy Anderson
Pale phase in copula.  Starcross, Devon, England.
Pale phasePale phase in copula. Starcross, Devon, England.Roy Anderson

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Arion vulgaris Moquin-Tandon 1855

Preferred Common Name

  • Spanish slug

Other Scientific Names

  • Arion lusitanicus Mabille 1868

International Common Names

  • Spanish: babosa lusitana
  • French: arion rouge; limace ibérique; limace noire; limace rouge

Local Common Names

  • Germany: Spanische Wegschnecke
  • UK: Iberian slug

EPPO code

  • ARIOLU (Arion lusitanicus)

Summary of Invasiveness

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Arion vulgaris is a slug native to southern France and Catalonia in Spain, that has since spread to much of central, northern and eastern Europe. It is considered to be invasive across western and central Europe, from the Pyrenees to eastern Poland and from southern France to north Italy, Austria and Slovakia and within an isolated range in eastern Bulgaria.

The invasiveness of A. vulgaris is related to several factors. One is its propensity for hybridizing with native large Arion species to produce vigorous adaptable forms. Its ability to colonize environments disturbed by human activities is also of major importance – for example in one study 99% of Swedish records were from synanthropic habitats and only 1% from natural woodlands – as proximity to humans comes with the possibility of passive dispersal through trade, illegal dumping (fly-tipping) of garden waste and particularly transport on living plants. The garden centre trade and horticulture are particularly implicated. In Poland, there is evidence from studies of molecular diversity that A. vulgaris has originated from repeated, separate introductions from other parts of Europe. The ability of A. vulgaris to utilize a great variety of food sources and types has been well-documented and must aid dispersal and colonization. In gardens, plant diversity has been shown to be positively associated with abundance of A. vulgaris.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Mollusca
  •             Class: Gastropoda
  •                 Subclass: Pulmonata
  •                     Order: Stylommatophora
  •                         Suborder: Sigmurethra
  •                             Unknown: Arionoidea
  •                                 Family: Arionidae
  •                                     Genus: Arion
  •                                         Species: Arion vulgaris

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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This species is widely known as the Lusitanian slug Arion lusitanicus Mabille, 1868. However, the name lusitanicus can no longer be applied. A re-description of lusitanicus sensu Mabille, based on topotypes from its type locality at Setubal, Serra da Arrábida, Portugal (Castillejo, 1997, 1998) has shown that Portuguese lusitanicus has a very different spermatophore and internal morphology from the central and west European species to which this name was applied by Altena (1956) and then by subsequent authors. The distinction between topotypic Arion lusitanicus and Arion ‘lusitanicus’ from north-west Europe has been confirmed by phylogenetic analysis (molecular studies) through ITS1 sequencing (Quinteiro et al., 2005; Colomba et al., 2007), and more recently using mitochondrial (cytochrome oxidase1) and nuclear (Zinc Finger) markers (Pfenninger et al., 2014). Falkner et al. (2002) proposed that the pest species in north-west Europe is called vulgaris Moquin-Tandon, 1855 as this appears to be the first available name that can be unambiguously applied. This is possible because Moquin-Tandon (1855), unusually among early authors, figured the highly diagnostic spermatophore in his description.

British authors, including Quick (1960), have confused vulgaris with Arion flagellus Collinge, a large Arion that inhabits the British Isles and northern Iberia, but has not so far been found elsewhere in Europe nor further afield. Some of Quick’s drawings of ‘lusitanicus’, particularly of the spermatophore (p. 142), actually relate to flagellus. This has clearly been a source of confusion and the reader is directed to Davies’ (1987) paper that first resolved the problem and gives a very detailed account of the distinguishing features and reproductive biology of flagellus and vulgaris (formerly lusitanicus).

Description

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Pneumostome located on the right-hand side of the mantle and near the front margin; keel absent; mantle granular. Foot fringe broad, heavily lineolated, similar colour to the dorsal surface. Juveniles have dark lateral bands with paler bands on the sides above and below these - distinguishing them from juvenile A. rufus and juvenile and adult A. subfuscus. Body colour is variable - yellowish, greyish, chocolate, reddish, brownish (but never greenish as in A.flagellus). Adults are normally unbanded, colour of the upper surface a uniform yellowish-brown, brown, reddish-brown or dark-brown, rarely black. Eggs are white, slightly transparent, soft-shelled, ca. 2.5 mm in diameter, noticeably larger than the eggs of A. flagellus (ca. 2 mm; Briner and Frank, 1998a).

Hatchlings are ca. 5 mm long when crawling. The adults are 6-12 cm long and normally weigh 5-15 g (extremes: 3-27 g) 

Distribution

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Moquin-Tandon’s description of A. vulgaris relates to a species inhabiting southern France (Moquin-Tandon, 1855). A. lusitanicus sensu Mabille, on the contrary, is restricted to Portugal (Quinteiro et al., 2005). In addition, there is no evidence to suggest that A. vulgaris occurs on the Iberian Peninsula outside the southern Pyrenees of Catalunya (Chevallier, 1981; Castillejo, 1998; Quinteiro et al., 2005). Theories for its area of origin range from southern Europe (Schmid, 1970) to the Alpine Region. Chevallier (1981) gives a map showing its French range, which is mainly Pyrenean rather than alpine.

Arion vulgaris has been spread by international trade from central and south France and can now be found throughout much of central, northern and eastern Europe. In many regions, it is well-established and has partly replaced the native large arionids: A. rufus and A. ater, especially in anthropogenic habitats, to become a serious pest (Fechter and Falkner, 1990; Turner et al., 1998). There has been considerable interbreeding with rufus and ater throughout its range (Zemanova et al., 2017) and the resulting vigorous hybrids may contribute to notable local increases in numbers. A. vulgaris appears uncommon at higher altitudes, at least in the Alps (ca. 1600 m above sea level; Turner et al., 1998) although this may not apply to the Pyrenees (Chevallier, 1981). Often, there is a clear gradation from pure A. vulgaris in valleys, through hybrids on the slopes, to A. rufus at higher altitudes in European mountains, paralleling ecological gradients (Zemanova et al., 2017).

Extensions in its range have been recorded in a number of countries since 2000. It is now confirmed from Ireland (Anderson, 2010), where it was earlier confused with other taxa. Similarly, it has been identified in the UK mainland, occurring sporadically in disturbed habitats of SE England (Davies, 1987). More recently (2015), it has been cited as especially numerous from localities around Norwich (JIC, 2021). It has recently been found in Iceland for the first time (Ingimarsdóttir and Ólafsson, 2005). Outside Europe, there is a suspected occurrence in the Falkland Islands (Proschwitz, 1988). This report has not been confirmed because the specimen involved was badly damaged. There is also a single unconfirmed report from Cornell University in the USA from October 1998.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 17 Dec 2021
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

Europe

AndorraPresentIntroduced
AustriaPresent, WidespreadIntroduced1972Invasive
BelgiumPresent, WidespreadIntroduced1974Invasive
BulgariaPresent, LocalizedIntroducedInvasiveSynanthropic; Stara Planina only
CzechiaPresent, WidespreadIntroduced1993Invasive
DenmarkPresent, WidespreadIntroduced1991Invasive
Faroe IslandsPresent, WidespreadIntroduced1996Invasive
FinlandPresent, LocalizedIntroducedInvasiveAland Isles
FrancePresent, WidespreadNativeInvasiveDescribed from near Lyons in 1855, now widespread
GermanyPresent, WidespreadIntroduced1965Invasive
IcelandPresent, LocalizedIntroduced2003InvasiveSouth only; Original citation: Ingimarsdóttir and Ólafsson (2005)
IrelandPresentIntroducedInvasive
ItalyPresent, LocalizedIntroducedInvasiveNorth only
LiechtensteinPresentIntroduced
NetherlandsPresent, WidespreadIntroduced1988Invasive
NorwayPresent, LocalizedIntroduced1988InvasiveCoastal; south and west
PolandPresent, WidespreadIntroduced1987InvasiveOriginal citation: Kozowski (2007)
PortugalPresent
-AzoresPresent, WidespreadUnclear whether the taxon referred to here is vulgaris or lusitanicus s.s.
SlovakiaPresent, WidespreadIntroduced1992Invasive
SloveniaPresent
SpainPresent, LocalizedNativeCatalunya only
SwedenPresent, WidespreadIntroduced1975Invasive
SwitzerlandPresent, WidespreadIntroduced1955Invasive
United KingdomPresent, WidespreadIntroduced1954InvasiveLocally abundant at many sites, but especially common in the south east

North America

CanadaPresentIntroduced

History of Introduction and Spread

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Arion vulgaris was first recognized in the UK and France in the early 1950s (Winter, 1989; Kerney, 1999), but has spread extensively throughout the SE of the UK (Davies, 1987; Rowson et al., 2014; JIC, 2021). It was first reported in Switzerland in 1955 (Turner et al., 1998), where it has been shown to hybridize with endemic A. rufus; these vigorous and adaptable forms (Knop and Reusser, 2012) are spreading rapidly in Alpine areas (Zemanova et al., 2017) and possibly throughout the range of A. vulgaris, displacing native large Arions. It was first reported in Germany in 1965 (Schmid, 1970), in Belgium in 1974 (Winter, 1989), in the Netherlands in 1988 (Winter, 1989) and in Austria in 1972 (Fischer and Reischütz, 1998). Before German unification in 1990, A. vulgaris was well-established in West, but not in East Germany (Proschwitz, 1997b). The first record for the former East Germany is from 1994 (Proschwitz, 1997b). In Sweden, A. vulgaris was first recorded in 1975, but from 1987 onwards populations exploded and the species spread rapidly to new sites. Of all the records in Sweden, 99% are from anthropogenic and only 1% from natural woodlands (Proschwitz, 1997a).

Outside Europe, there is a suspected occurrence in the Falkland Islands (Proschwitz, 1988). This report has not been confirmed because the specimen involved was badly damaged. There is also an unconfirmed report from Cornell University in the USA from October 1998.

In addition to the information provided in the History of Introduction table, A. vulgaris has been confirmed from Ireland. Kerney (1999), in his atlas of non-marine Mollusca, shows A. lusitanicus (=vulgaris) as an Irish species. However, subsequent research indicates that Kerney’s records are probably in error. The species has since been unequivocally recorded in Ireland by Anderson (2010).

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Austria  1972 Yes No Fischer and Reischütz (1998) Accidental
Belgium  1974 Yes No De Winter (1989) Accidental
Bulgaria   Yes No Wiktor (1983) Accidental; in Stara Planina
Czech Republic  1993 Yes No Dvorák and Horsák (2003) Accidental
Denmark  1991 Yes No Proschwitz and Winge (1994) Accidental
Falkland Islands UK No No Proschwitz (1988) Accidental. In Port Stanley
Faroe Islands Denmark  1996 Yes No Weidema (2006) Accidental
Finland  1990 Yes No Valovirta (1995) Accidental; Aland Islands
Germany Yes No von Proschwitz (1997b) Accidental
Iceland  2003 Yes No Ingimarsdóttir and Ólafsson (2005) Accidental
Italy   Yes No Cesari (1978) Accidental
Liechtenstein   No No Cesari (1978) Accidental
Netherlands  1988 Yes No De Winter (1989) Accidental
Norway  1988 Yes No Proschwitz and Winge (1994) Accidental
Poland   Yes No Kozlowski and Kornobis (1995) Accidental
Slovakia  1992 Yes No Cejka et al. (2006) Accidental
Spain   Yes No Chevallier (1981) Accidental; Catalunya
Sweden  1975 Yes No Proschwitz (1997a) Accidental; southern Sweden
Switzerland  1955 Yes No Turner et al. (1998) Accidental
UK   Yes No Kerney (1999); Rowson et al. (2014) Accidental

Risk of Introduction

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It is likely that A. vulgaris will continue to spread northwards and especially eastwards in Europe, to the Baltic States and Russia (Proschwitz, 1997a). It is likely this range expansion will be facilitated by its frequent hybridization with local species of large Arion, allowing vulgaris to assimilate locally adaptive traits (Knop and Reusser, 2012; Zemanova et al., 2017). It may be expected to turn up eventually in the Antipodes and in North America.

A survey of introduced slugs in California, USA, categorizing taxa only by their ITS sequencing using identified UK material as standards, found only A. rufus (R McDonnell, UCLA, personal communication, 2008). But use of only limited numbers of molecular markers provides little power to determine if these animals are rufus or vulgaris-rufus hybrids.

Many authors refer to its propensity for transport with plant materials through the horticultural trade and the gardening trade, a characteristic facilitated by frequently high population densities.

Habitat

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Arion vulgaris is most frequent in agricultural and horticultural habitats with permanent, dense vegetation, such as grassland, fallows and gardens and is often abundant in compost heaps (Dörler et al., 2018). In low numbers, it is present in most agricultural and horticultural land and also increasingly in natural habitats (Fechter and Falkner, 1990; Turner et al., 1998).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedProtected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production) Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedRail / roadsides Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedUrban / peri-urban areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalScrub / shrublands Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)

Hosts/Species Affected

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Arion vulgaris is a serious pest of diverse vegetable crops (especially Brassicaceae, lettuce, cucurbits), vegetable seedlings, arable crops (Triticeae), forage (helianthus), ornamental plants, low-growing fruits (strawberries) and herbs within gardens, regularly causing severe losses (Dörler et al., 2018). In the early stages of arable crop development (after seedling emergence or after planting), the plants are seriously defoliated or completely destroyed. The leaves, flowers or fruit may be damaged with feeding holes and the potential harvest devalued. In Austria, serious damage to arable agriculture has been reported (Reischütz, 1984). In Poland, A. vulgaris was found to feed on a wide range of plants, including arable crops and commonly occurring weeds. Significantly, vulgaris was found to destroy far more seeds in its gut than native gastropod species (Blattmann et al., 2013). Slug damage was found on 103 plant species (including wild species), preferred crops including Brassica napus (Kozlowski and Kaluski, 2004; Kozlowski, 2005).

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContextReferences
Aegopodium podagraria (ground elder (UK))ApiaceaeUnknown
Alcea rosea (Hollyhock)MalvaceaeUnknown
Allium cepa (onion)LiliaceaeUnknown
Allium sativum (garlic)LiliaceaeUnknown
Allium schoenoprasum (chives)LiliaceaeUnknown
Angelica archangelica (Angelica)ApiaceaeUnknown
Anthemis arvensisUnknown
Apium graveolens (celery)ApiaceaeUnknown
Apium graveolens var. rapaceum (celeriac)ApiaceaeUnknown
Aquilegia caeruleaUnknown
Arctium lappa (burdock)AsteraceaeUnknown
Armoracia rusticana (horseradish)BrassicaceaeUnknown
Artemisia dracunculus (tarragon)AsteraceaeUnknown
Asparagus officinalis (asparagus)LiliaceaeMain
Beta vulgaris (beetroot)ChenopodiaceaeOther
BrassicaBrassicaceaeMain
Brassica juncea (mustard)BrassicaceaeUnknown
Brassica napus var. napus (rape)BrassicaceaeMain
Brassica oleracea var. botrytis (cauliflower)BrassicaceaeUnknown
Brassica oleracea var. capitata (cabbage)BrassicaceaeUnknown
Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera (Brussels sprouts)BrassicaceaeUnknown
Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes (kohlrabi)BrassicaceaeUnknown
Brassica oleracea var. sabauda (Savoy cabbage)BrassicaceaeUnknown
Brassica rapa (field mustard)BrassicaceaeUnknown
Brassica rapa subsp. oleifera (turnip rape)BrassicaceaeUnknown
Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensisBrassicaceaeUnknown
Calendula officinalis (Pot marigold)AsteraceaeUnknown
Callistephus chinensis (China aster)AsteraceaeUnknown
Capsella bursa-pastoris (shepherd's purse)BrassicaceaeUnknown
Capsicum annuum (bell pepper)SolanaceaeOther
Centaurea cyanus (cornflower)AsteraceaeUnknown
cerealsMain
Chamomilla recutita (common chamomile)AsteraceaeUnknown
Chenopodium album (fat hen)ChenopodiaceaeUnknown
Chrysanthemum (daisy)AsteraceaeUnknown
ClematisRanunculaceaeUnknown
Conium maculatum (poison hemlock)ApiaceaeUnknown
Coriandrum sativum (coriander)ApiaceaeUnknown
Cucumis melo (melon)CucurbitaceaeUnknown
Cucumis sativus (cucumber)CucurbitaceaeUnknown
Cucurbita (pumpkin)CucurbitaceaeMain
Cucurbita maxima (giant pumpkin)CucurbitaceaeUnknown
Cucurbita pepo (marrow)CucurbitaceaeUnknown
Dahlia pinnata (garden dahlia)AsteraceaeUnknown
Datura stramonium (jimsonweed)SolanaceaeUnknown
Daucus carota (carrot)ApiaceaeMain
Daucus carota subsp. sativusUnknown
Digitalis grandifloraScrophulariaceaeUnknown
Echinochloa crus-galli (barnyard grass)PoaceaeUnknown
Euphorbia helioscopia (sun spurge)EuphorbiaceaeUnknown
Ficaria vernaUnknown
Foeniculum vulgare (fennel)ApiaceaeOther
Fragaria vesca (wild strawberry)RosaceaeMain
Fuchsia magellanica (Magellan fuchsia)OnagraceaeUnknown
Galinsoga parviflora (gallant soldier)AsteraceaeUnknown
Geranium dissectum (cutleaf geranium)GeraniaceaeUnknown
Helianthus annuus (sunflower)AsteraceaeUnknown
Helianthus annuus (sunflower)AsteraceaeUnknown
Hosta lancifoliaLiliaceaeUnknown
Iris germanica (German iris)IridaceaeUnknown
Lactuca sativa (lettuce)AsteraceaeMain
Lactuca sativa var. capitata (head lettuce)AsteraceaeUnknown
Lamium album (white deadnettle)LamiaceaeUnknown
Levisticum officinale (lovage)ApiaceaeUnknown
Lilium candidum (madonna lily)LiliaceaeUnknown
Lupinus luteus (yellow lupin)FabaceaeUnknown
Lycopsis arvensisUnknown
Malva sylvestrisMalvaceaeUnknown
Medicago sativa (lucerne)FabaceaeUnknown
Mentha piperita (Peppermint)LamiaceaeUnknown
Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco)SolanaceaeUnknown
Ocimum basilicum (basil)LamiaceaeUnknown
OrchisUnknown
Ornithopus sativus (Bird's foot)FabaceaeUnknown
Paeonia (peonies)PaeoniaceaeUnknown
Papaver rhoeas (common poppy)PapaveraceaeUnknown
Petroselinum crispum (parsley)ApiaceaeUnknown
Phacelia tanacetifolia (California bluebell)HydrophyllaceaeUnknown
Phaseolus (beans)FabaceaeOther
Phaseolus vulgaris (common bean)FabaceaeUnknown
Pisum sativum (pea)FabaceaeUnknown
Plantago lanceolata (ribwort plantain)PlantaginaceaeUnknown
Plantago major (broad-leaved plantain)PlantaginaceaeUnknown
Portulaca oleracea (purslane)PortulacaceaeUnknown
Ranunculus repens (creeping buttercup)RanunculaceaeUnknown
Raphanus sativus (radish)BrassicaceaeOther
Rubus idaeus (raspberry)RosaceaeUnknown
Rudbeckia laciniata (cutleaf coneflower)AsteraceaeUnknown
Rumex acetosella (sheep's sorrel)PolygonaceaeUnknown
Rumex crispus (curled dock)PolygonaceaeUnknown
Salvia officinalis (common sage)LamiaceaeUnknown
Sisymbrium officinale (Hedge mustard)BrassicaceaeUnknown
Solanum lycopersicum (tomato)SolanaceaeUnknown
Solanum tuberosum (potato)SolanaceaeMain
Sonchus arvensis (perennial sowthistle)AsteraceaeUnknown
Stellaria media (common chickweed)CaryophyllaceaeUnknown
Tagetes erecta (Mexican marigold)AsteraceaeUnknown
Tanacetum parthenium (Feverfew)AsteraceaeUnknown
Tanacetum vulgare (tansy)AsteraceaeUnknown
Taraxacum officinale complex (dandelion)AsteraceaeUnknown
Thymus vulgaris (thyme)LamiaceaeUnknown
Trifolium repens (white clover)FabaceaeUnknown
Trifolium resupinatum (Shaftal clover)FabaceaeUnknown
Tripleurospermum inodorumUnknown
Tropaeolum majus (common nasturtium)TropaeolaceaeUnknown
Tulipa gesnerianaLiliaceaeUnknown
Urtica dioica (stinging nettle)UrticaceaeUnknown
Vicia faba var. minutaUnknown
Vicia sativa (common vetch)FabaceaeUnknown
Viola odorata (English violet)ViolaceaeUnknown
Zea mays (maize)PoaceaeUnknown
Zinnia elegans (zinnia)AsteraceaeUnknown

Growth Stages

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Flowering stage, Fruiting stage, Post-harvest, Pre-emergence, Seedling stage, Vegetative growing stage

Symptoms

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Copious deposits of slime and slime trails leading from damaged site indicate activity. 

Damage only within 1-5 m from the field edge, next to an area with dense, undisturbed vegetation, for example, grassland, fallow, scrub and garden.

Surface damage to large plants or plant parts specifically indicates the presence of this species. Complete removal of plants above ground may occur.  

No damage occurs below ground with this species.

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Fruit / external feeding
Fruit / frass visible
Fruit / reduced size
Inflorescence / external feeding
Leaves / external feeding
Leaves / frass visible
Leaves / shredding
Roots / external feeding
Seeds / external feeding
Stems / external feeding
Stems / visible frass
Vegetative organs / external feeding
Whole plant / external feeding
Whole plant / frass visible

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

Arion vulgaris shows comparatively little genetic variation through its central European range (Quinteiro et al., 2005). Material from Switzerland (Zemanova et al., 2017), Britain, France, Italy and Norway (Hatteland et al., 2015) shows genetic evidence of hybridization and introgression with A. ater and A. rufus. These observations are concordant with data on metabolic rates of individuals of these species from Sweden (Hagnell et al., 2003) which appear to suggest hybridization between A. vulgaris and A. rufus.

Interpretation of these data is complicated by the suggestion (Chevallier, 1981) that the A. ater complex in Europe comprises species additional to those presently recognized, i.e. A. aterA. rufus and A. vulgaris.

Reproductive Biology

Arion vulgaris has an annual life cycle (Davies, 1987). In the British Isles, mating takes place between late July and early September. Courtship starts after sunset and copulation may take between 2 and 3 h (Davies, 1987). The eggs are laid between September and November and the adults then die off. The juveniles appear in spring (March/April) and grow rapidly to maturity in June/July. 

The life cycle is flexible, adapting to local conditions with two generations thought to occur in especially favourable (warm, moist) environments, with a biennial life cycle adopted in less favourable high altitude sites (Knop and Reusser, 2012).  

Although A. vulgaris can self-fertilise, populations of A. vulgaris reproduce more often by outcrossing 

Physiology and Phenology

Due to recent expansions in range, the difficulty in distinguishing A. vulgaris from related species and the possibility of widespread hybridization and introgression, few reliable observations on regional phenotypic variability are reported. 

Chevallier (1977) noted a tendency for dark-coloured individuals to occur at higher altitudes in the species native range in France and for brighter, reddish-coloured individuals to predominate in warmer regions and at lower altitudes. Observations consistent with hybridization of local species such as A. ater and A. rufus in these locations (Zemanova et al., 2017), producing highly plastic and adaptable forms locally (Knop and Reusser, 2012).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Ds - Continental climate with dry summer Tolerated Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)
ET - Tundra climate Tolerated Tundra climate (Average temp. of warmest month < 10°C and > 0°C)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
41-68 >1500

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Anas platyrhynchos Predator Adults; Nematodes|Juveniles not specific
Carabus Predator Eggs; Nematodes|Juveniles not specific Hatteland et al. (2013)
Cychrus caraboides Predator Eggs; Nematodes|Juveniles not specific
Erinaceus europaeus Predator Adults not specific
Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita Parasite Nematodes|Juveniles not specific Hatteland et al. (2013)
Pterostichus Predator Eggs; Nematodes|Juveniles not specific
Silpha atrata Predator Adults; Nematodes|Juveniles not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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No natural enemies have yet been shown to substantially reduce the populations of A. vulgaris

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Very little is known about the rates of spread of this species. However, there is now evidence to suggest gradual spread and introgression with local species of large Arions in areas where A. vulgaris has become established (Zemanova et al., 2017).

An introduction to new areas is always accidental and appears to occur with the movement of plant materials including garden and horticultural waste.

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Plants or parts of plants Yes Yes Dörler et al. (2018)

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Negative
Environment (generally) Negative

Economic Impact

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No overall assessment of the economic consequences of A. vulgaris has been made, but the species contributes to damage on several horticultural crops (Fischer and Reisschütz, 1998). Strawberry growers in Norway have reported more than 50% loss in yield due to A. vulgaris, but proper economic assessments have not been conducted yet (Weidema, 2006). Much of the uncertainty surrounding impact attributable to this species is a consequence of its confusion with endemic species with which it hybridizes.

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Habitats

Arion vulgaris can be a significant cause of defoliation of wild plants and even trees (Proschwitz, 1997a). However, these effects are likely to be short-lived and the severity of defoliation will be dependent upon a number of environmental variables controlling slug breeding success. 

Impact on Biodiversity

The main impact on biodiversity noted by authors has been the decline in numbers and disappearance of Arion rufus in areas where A. vulgaris is abundant and invasive (Fischer and Reischütz, 1998). It is now clear that their apparent decline is due to hybridization with these local species (Hatteland et al., 2015; Zemanova et al., 2017).

Social Impact

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The use of toxic baits could have health impacts on children in gardens and on predators that may accumulate poisons. The volume of sales of garden slug killers in central Europe has been linked to the prevalence of this species (Weidema, 2006).

Risk and Impact Factors

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Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Changed gene pool/ selective loss of genotypes
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts livelihoods
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Hybridization
  • Interaction with other invasive species
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses List

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General

  • Laboratory use
  • Research model

Detection and Inspection

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The occurrence of A. vulgaris in transported plant materials may involve the adults, juveniles or eggs. 

The adults and juveniles are active after dark and may be detected in the evening or early morning, or by inspecting plant materials stored under cover. Like Deroceras reticulatum, all stages hide under debris, stones and wood and occasionally in the soil around root systems. Smaller stages may hide in leaf whorls.

The eggs are deposited on the soil, under dead leaves or other surface debris and are not buried in the soil. 

Traps containing molluscicides (metaldehyde, carbamate, iron pyrophosphate hydrate) may be used to collect material, but hand collecting is often as efficient and avoids the risk of contaminating produce.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Arion vulgaris belongs to a clade of large round-back slugs inhabiting central, western and southern Europe. These include A. rufus, which has been dispersed with trade to western North America. A. vulgaris and A. rufus are closely related and able to hybridize (Hagnell et al., 2003, Hatteland et al., 2015; Zemanova et al., 2017).

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to distinguish between these species based on external morphology. Reliable methods of discrimination include: dissection of the distal genitalia in mature individuals (Noble 1992; Hatteland et al., 2015); the use of ITS1 sequencing data based on known reference material and microsatellite markers (Zemanova et al., 2017). The spermatophores exchanged during sexual intercourse are highly diagnostic, but they are unlikely to be available routinely. A summary of the internal and external characteristics of A. vulgaris are given by Davies (1987)Quick (1960) provides a useful summary for A. rufus.

Colour phases are often difficult to attribute to this species due to its frequent hybridization and introgression with endemic species: a dark phase and a light phase, are recognized but are most likely a consequence of introgression. 

The dark phase (red-brown, black body colours) of A. vulgaris has a sub-dermal black pigment masked by an overlying reddish pigment. That the red pigment responds to environmental conditions and varies from bright red-brown (warm, dry conditions) to dark-brown or black (cold conditions) (Chevallier, 1977) is likely a consequence of introgression with local species, corresponding with the distribution of either A. rufus (warmer drier conditions) and A. ater (cooler wetter conditions). Colour can alter within a generation if specimens are transplanted from warm to cold areas, e.g. an increase in altitude or movement further north (R Anderson, [address available from CABI], personal communication, 2008). The foot fringe colour matches the overall body colour in the dark phase. In the dark phase of A. rufus, there is no indication of contrasting pigment layers in the dermis. In addition, the foot fringe is brighter, yellow or red to orange, usually contrasting markedly with (duller) body colours that may include grey or pure black. 

The pale phase of A. vulgaris (yellowish to pale-brown body colours) lacks the contrasting dark subdermal pigment and the skin layers are uniform in colour. The pale phase is difficult to distinguish from A. rufus although the latter still tends to have brighter red to orange, contrasting foot fringes, whereas in A. vulgaris the foot fringe and body colours match better.   

Populations of A. vulgaris reproduce more often by outcrossing than by selfing, although this is still possible in the absence of mates. Together with other large Arions such as A. rufus and A. ater, which are facultatively self-fertile, often producing a proportion of each egg clutch by self-fertilization, A. vulgaris lies at the end of a continuum which runs from preferential to occasional facultative self-fertilization.

Resting individuals of A. rufusand A. ater, when stimulated by stroking the back firmly, may react by rolling the body from side to side while in the contracted position. This reaction is not characteristic of A. vulgaris, although individuals which are the product of introgression may show a similar response (see Davies, 1987).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Early Warning Systems

No warning system is available for A. vulgaris. However, in habitats that have been undisturbed for at least 2 years, A. vulgaris often occurs in high numbers and is likely to cause damage.

Cultural Control

Ploughing and other methods of soil cultivation significantly reduce slug populations, and the removal of vegetation deprives A. vulgaris of shelters. In recent years the establishment of fallows has been encouraged in many European countries as part of government-subsidized set-aside programmes. Along with grassland, fallows and other undisturbed habitats are excellent habitats for A. vulgaris. In these habitats, A. vulgaris builds up large populations rapidly and migrates into adjacent crops, often completely destroying the nearest few metres of the field. Thus, crops sensitive to slug feeding should not be sown or planted next to undisturbed habitats and undisturbed habitats should not be created next to a slug sensitive crop.

Biological Control

The nematode Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita (Rhabditidae) is a moderately effective biocontrol agent for many slug species (Wilson et al., 1993; Glen et al., 1996). Juvenile A. vulgaris are susceptible to P. hermaphrodita, but larger specimens are not (B Speiser, FiBL, Frick, Switzerland, unpublished data).

Chinese ducks are successfully used to control slugs in horticultural crops (B Grimm, Institute of Zoology, Graz, Austria, personal communication; B Speiser, FiBL, Frick, Switzerland) but their use is limited by the labour requirement of herd management. If ducks swallow A. vulgaris, they need access to water to clean their beaks (Sulzberger, 1996). The successful use of ducks for control of snails is described by Sakovich (1996).

Chemical Control

For chemical control of A. vulgaris, bait pellets are normally used. These contain either metaldehyde or a carbamate as active ingredient. The pellets are broadcast on the soil. If A. vulgaris migrates into the crop from an adjacent habitat, it may be sufficient to treat a narrow strip (0.5 m) with twice the dosage recommended for broadcast application (Friedli and Frank, 1998).

Host Resistance

There is little scope to reduce damage by A. vulgaris through the use of resistant varieties.

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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Quantification of economic impacts is missing from almost all evaluations and should be followed up. An inherent difficulty with such quantification will be recognizing the impact of hybrids and introgressed endemic species, the activity of which is attributable to A. vulgaris.

The status of A. vulgaris in the USA is unclear. Apart from a uncorroborated report on the internet for Cornell University, USA in 1998 no evidence for its occurrence there has been adduced. Despite this, almost the whole of the continental USA falls within the latitudinal and climatic parameters suitable for this species. The relevant authorities are aware of the potential problem, but more studies addressing the identity of introduced large arionids in the USA are required. A molecular study in California, USA (R McDonnell, UCLA, personal communication, 2008) suggests that the invasive, large arionids in that area at least, are attributable to A. rufus; although using a single molecular marker cannot determine the level of hybridization and introgression in these introduced populations.

References

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Davies SM, 1987. Arion flagellus Collinge and A. lusitanicus Mabille in the British Isles: a morphological, biological and taxonomic investigation. Journal of Conchology, 32:339-354

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Friedli J, Frank T, 1998. Reduced applications of metaldehyde pellets for reliable control of the slug pests Arion lusitanicus and Deroceras reticulatum in oilseed rape adjacent to sown wildflower strips. Journal of Applied Ecology, 35(4):504-513

Glen DM, Wilson MJ, Hughes L, Cargeeg P, Hajjar A, 1996. Exploring and exploiting the potential of the rhabditid nematode Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita as a biocontrol agent for slugs. Slug & snail pests in agriculture. Proceedings of a Symposium, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK, 24-26 September 1996., 271-280

Grimm B, 2002. Effect of the nematode Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita on young stages of the pest slug Arion lusitanicus. Journal of Molluscan Studies, 68(1):25-28

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Hatteland, B. A., Haukeland, S., Roth, S., Brurberg, M. B., Vaughan, I. P., Symondson, W. O. C., 2013. Spatiotemporal analysis of predation by carabid beetles (Carabidae) on nematode infected and uninfected slugs in the field. PLoS ONE, 8(12), e82142. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082142

Hatteland, B. A., Solhøy, T., Schander, C., Skage, M., Proschwitz, T. von, Noble, L. R., 2015. Introgression and differentiation of the invasive slug Arion vulgaris from native A. ater. Malacologia, 58(1/2), 303-321. http://www.bioone.org/loi/mala

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Knop, E., Reusser, N., 2012. Jack-of-all-trades: phenotypic plasticity facilitates the invasion of an alien slug species. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Biological Sciences, 279(1747), 4668-4676. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.1564

Kozlowski J, 2005. Host plants and harmfulness of the Arion lusitanicus Mabille, 1868 slug. Journal of Plant Protection Research, 45:221-233

Kozlowski J, Kaluski T, 2004. Preferences of Deroceras reticulatum (O. Müller), Arion lusitanicus Mabille and Arion rufus (Linnaeus) for various weed and herb species and winter oilseed rape (II group plants). Folia Malacologica, 12:173-180

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Kozłowski, J., 2007. The distribution, biology, population dynamics and harmfulness of Arion lusitanicus Mabille, 1868 (Gastropoda: Pulmonata: Arionidae) in Poland. Journal of Plant Protection Research, 47(3), 219-230. http://www.ior.poznan.pl/Journal/

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Laznik Z, Ross JL, Trdan S, 2010. Massive occurrence and identification of the nematode Alloionema appendiculatum Schneider (Rhabditida: Alloionematidae) found in Arionidae slugs in Slovenia. Acta Agriculturae Slovenica, 95(1):43-49. http://aas.bf.uni-lj.si/februar2010/06laznik.pdf

Ludwig A, Reise H, Hutchinson JMC, 2015. The slug fauna of gardens in the town of Görlitz (Saxony, Germany). (Die Nacktschneckenfauna in Gärten der Stadt Görlitz (Sachsen, Deutschland).) Berichte der Naturforschenden Gesellschaft der Oberlausitz, 23:43-57. http://www.naturforschende-gesellschaft-der-oberlausitz.de/Publikationen

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Zemanova, M. A., Knop, E., Heckel, G., 2017. Introgressive replacement of natives by invading Arion pest slugs. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 14908. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-14619-y

Distribution References

Anderson R, 2010. The invasive pest slug Arion vulgaris Moquin-Tandon (=A. lusitanicus Mabille) (Mollusca: Arionidae) confirmed for Ireland, with an appeal for records. Irish Naturalists' Journal. 31 (1), 69-70. http://www.habitas.org.uk/inj/

Backhuys W, 1975. Land and freshwater molluscs of the Azores. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Backhuys and Meesters.

CABI, Undated. Compendium record. Wallingford, UK: CABI

CABI, Undated a. CABI Compendium: Status as determined by CABI editor. Wallingford, UK: CABI

Cejka T, Dvorák L, Horsák M, 2006. New records of mollusc species for Slovakia during the last 25 years. In: Malakologický Bulletin. http://mal-bull.blogspot.com

Cesari P, 1978. [English title not available]. (Nota preliminare sulla diffusione in Italia e l'esplosione demografica nel Veneto di Arion lusitanicus Mabille). Lavori, Società veneziana di Scienze naturali. 3-7.

Chevallier H, 1981. [English title not available]. (Taxonomie des "Limaces rouges" (genre Arion, sous-genre Arion s., Mollusca, Pulmonata)). Haliotis. 87-99.

Davies S M, 1987. Arion flagellus Collinge and A. lusitanicus Mabille in the British Isles: a morphological, biological and taxonomic investigation. Journal of Conchology. 339-354.

Dvorák L, Horsák M, 2003. [English title not available]. (Soucasné poznatky o plzáku Arion lusitanicus (Mollusca: Pulmonata) v Ceské republice). Casopis Slezskeho Musea v Opave. 67-71.

Fischer W, Reischütz P L, 1998. General aspects of the slug pest. (Grundsätzliche Bemerkungen zum Schadschneckenproblem). Bodenkultur. 281-292.

Foltan P, Konvicka M, 2008. A new method for marking slugs by ultraviolet-fluorescent dye. Journal of Molluscan Studies. 74 (3), 293-297. DOI:10.1093/mollus/eyn012

Friedli J, Frank T, 1998. Reduced applications of metaldehyde pellets for reliable control of the slug pests Arion lusitanicus and Deroceras reticulatum in oilseed rape adjacent to sown wildflower strips. Journal of Applied Ecology. 35 (4), 504-513. DOI:10.1046/j.1365-2664.1998.3540504.x

Grimm B, 2001. Life cycle and population density of the pest slug Arion lusitanicus Mabille (Mollusca: Pulmonata) on grassland. Malacologia. 43 (1/2), 25-32.

Grimm B, Paill W, 2001. Spatial distribution and home-range of the pest slug Arion lusitanicus (Mollusca: Pulmonata). Acta Oecologica. 22 (4), 219-227. DOI:10.1016/S1146-609X(01)01115-8

Hagnell J, Schander C, Nilsson M, Ragnarsson J, Valstar H, Wollkopf A M, Proschwitz T von, 2006. How to trap a slug: commercial versus homemade slug traps. Crop Protection. 25 (3), 212-215. DOI:10.1016/j.cropro.2005.04.008

Hönemann L, Nentwig W, 2010. Does feeding on Bt-maize affect the slug Arion vulgaris (Mollusca: Arionidae)? Biocontrol Science and Technology. 20 (1), 13-18. DOI:10.1080/09583150903308707

Kerney M P, 1999. Atlas of the land and freshwater molluscs of Britain and Ireland. Colchester, UK: Harley Books.

Kerney MP, Cameron RAD, Jungbluth JH, 1979. (Die Landschnecken Nord- und Mitteleuropas)., Hamburg, Germany: Paul Parey.

Kozlowski J, 2005. Host plants and harmfulness of the Arion lusitanicus Mabille, 1868 slug. Journal of Plant Protection Research. 221-233.

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
Conchological Society of Great Britain & Irelandhttp://www.conchsoc.org/
DAISIE (European Alien Species Expert Registry)http://daisie.ckff.si/

Organizations

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Europe: DAISIE - Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe, Web-based service, http://www.europe-aliens.org

UK: Malacological Society of London, Canterbury Christ Church University , Kent, CT1 1QU, http://www.malacsoc.org.uk/

Contributors

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07/04/2008 Updated by:

Roy Anderson, Consultant, UK

04/12/2019 Updated by:

Leslie R Noble, Nord University, Norway

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