Six Little Creatures
We’d just dropped a 17m high holly tree at a friend’s property. The massive trunk split in two when it thumped into the ground and continued to creak and crack, vines attached to the top branches, stretched taut, and caught in nearby trees. I cautiously inspected the now horizontal trunk, just to make sure it was safe and wouldn’t roll. The cleft where the rend occurred was narrow and calloused with bark. An acute joint between trunks or branches is inherently weak. Though it was hot and dry, and the ground dusty with weeds curling and desiccated, there was water evident in the broken trunk. It must have been trapped, pooled in the narrow, protected space between the trunks.
I noticed something when I looked closely at the bare wood and folds of bark callous. Shapes, green and humped, some with little nodules. Native leaf-veined slugs.
I’d read about them but never ever seen one. And here were four.
I called Biz over and showed her.
We couldn’t just leave them, they’d dry out in the heat and the ground was impenetrable, no sheltering humus layer.
“We’ll make a vivarium," she said.
“A what?” Not liking the beginning of that word.
“Like a terrarium, for reptiles.”
We collected junk. We emptied an old vegetable crisper from a fridge we’d brought our camping gear in. Lined with leaves and pieces of decayed branches, we made a bed for the critters and covered them with more leaves. Biz got water and sprinkled it in to dampen the wood.
Were there any we’d missed? I climbed around the other side of the huge trunk, checked the opposite face of the cleft. Sure enough, two more little flat gherkins. I couldn’t reach them and had to guide Biz from the other side, my eyes, her hands.
Six in total, between 4 and 6 cm long, their bodies either flattened or humped. We covered the container with a piece of broken corrugated plastic, topped that with an unturned, rusted roasting pan to keep it dark and put them in the shade under the truck.
When it was time to go home, I nestled rubber kneeler pads around the sides of the slug house and tucked it beneath a tarp with our gear for the journey.
We got home late so I left them be in the cool of the carport. Next morning, I got them out. I found all 6 huddled in a pile together on the bottom of the crisper. Apparently, they do this to maintain humidity.
I’d decided on a spot on a south facing bank, cool and shady, covered in established native trees I’d planted years ago. Lots of leaf litter on the ground. I gently laid them in a hollow under a bank, chatting softly to them. I covered them with lots of decaying leaf matter and criss-crossed branches to protect them (hopefully) from rats and hedgehogs.
I’m sprinkling them daily with water as it's parched and hot out. Haven’t uncovered them to check as I figure they need some peace ... but so tempted.