I was clearing up around the garden, trimming all the edges and exposing the slug hidey-holes to the light and the birds. I figured it was best to reduce the populations around my garden before the plants go in. Having said that, I didn’t actually kill any – more sort of displaced them and made them homeless refugees, so I think they may come back when the grass grows again. That is of course unless the birds get to them. There are loads of birds hopping about my garden at the moment, as they have hungry mouths to feed.
I did think about releasing the chickens for a bit of a free range slug feasting fest, but they can’t be trusted to only go where I want them to. The visions of them scratching up my tiny carrot seedlings or eating my lettuce before I could get to it was enough to make me change my mind and as quickly as the thought had popped into my head it was gone again.
But while I was clearing away the grass I caught sight of an iridescent blue worm wiggling away from my weeding efforts. I have found worms on the whole are quite nosey and always pop up out of the soil to see what is going on and come over and have a close look. Sometimes it is difficult to avoid giving them a little bit of a squeeze as I tug at a stubborn weed. Well they would get in the way! So see a pretty one going in the opposite direction to the others made me look twice. He was quite handsome and had a dashing yellow stripe. I’d never seen one before and I was curious, so I reached out and touched him. But I think I hurt him. I was being gentle, but he became damaged.
I felt really bad. As I’d never seen one before I wasn’t sure if he was a goodie or a baddie. I was tempted to Google him, but I was worried that the guilt would be intensified if I found I had significantly reduced an endangered native population. So cowardly I tried not to think about him as I carried on with my trimming and weeding.
But then I saw another one. So I reasoned with myself that it was now safe to investigate further. I had caused the demise of one, but let one live so I was even. If he was a pest, then I’d taken care of one, but if they were rare and protected – there was still one in my garden to go forth and multiply.
It took a bit of searching to discover they were flatworms of the Platyhelminthes variety and they were natives and that blue was unusual, but it didn’t say rare. It also explained why the first one suffered greatly at my touch. It said they were very fragile and easily damaged by a slightest touch, and would die and decompose quickly if held in captivity.
The thing is they are carnivores and have a diet of slugs and earthworms. As a native species, we are taught to respect our flora and fauna as our country has unique collections of all sorts of wildlife. Most of the slugs and snails that wreak havoc in our veggie gardens aren’t natives to New Zealand, but interlopers inadvertently introduced when the Europeans settled here. So as an invading species, it is perfectly ok to dispense with them. But the earthworms we so love in gardens are also introduced, but we think of them as welcome immigrants. They stowed away on soil used as ballast on the settler’s ships, but were soon introduced to newly created farmlands when their benefits were recognised.
So now I’m torn. I have a native species and two foreigners – one good and one bad. And my native eats both foreigners. So do I allow the local to have free reign over its ancestral land and eat slugs willy nilly, or smoosh him on sight for even considering my beloved earthworms are delectable menu options.
Having said that, I have a very large garden and have being doing this for a few years now and have only seen two pretty blue flatworms with a lovely yellow stripe. So I may just let them share my garden and help to reduce the slug population. Hopefully it will be a decision I don’t live to regret.
Come again soon – it’s been raining again, the grass will grow again and my mower is broken again.
Sarah the Gardener : o )