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Slug Hunters

A Hethersett youngster is one of a trio of schoolgirls leading the national hunt for an invasive visitor from Spain. 

Spanish slugs are an aggressive species capable of destroying crops and may be responsible for the death of numerous hedgehogs. The problems caused by the species was highlighted on this week’s BBC Television programme Countryfile as they visited a Hethersett garden in search of the evil presence. 

Annie Floyd, 13, and friends Lily-Ann Reeve, 13, from Tasburgh and 12-year-old Rhiannon Smith-Meek from Norwich have been taking part in a citizens science project aimed at tracking down the Spanish slugs.  The girls are pictured above (left to right) - Lily-Ann, Annie, Rhiannon.

Their search has been aided by friend Dr Anne Edwards, who is a Research Assistant at the John Innes Centre, a Hethersett Parish Councillor, member of the Hethersett Environmental Action Team and an authority on the Ash Dieback Disease. 

She was contacted by the Countryfile programme and asked for her expert knowledge on the unwelcome Spanish visitors. Knowing of the youngsters’ interest in nature, she enlisted their help in bringing the problem to a wider audience. 

“There is a slugwatch web site which was set-up by a pupil from the Notre Dame School in Norwich. The Spanish slugs tend to be larger than their British counterparts and often feed on dog droppings and dead animals. They carry parasites and it takes lots of slug pellets to kill them. Hedgehogs may have eaten them and suffered serious consequences. They emit masses of slime and can lay 400 eggs at a time, twice as many as their British counterparts. There is a serious economic consequence as the creatures are capable of destroying crops,” Dr Edwards said. 

The slugs are thought to have been brought to this country about two years ago in various consignments. They were first identified by Dr Ian Bedford, Head of Entomology at the John Innes Centre. 

Although they failed to find any slugs in the Hethersett garden, the three girls, who are now known locally as The Slugettes, are keen to pass on their knowledge and experience to others in order to try and eradicate the creatures which have orange or brown backs and can grow up to six inches in length. 

“Being on national television was an amazing experience,” they all agreed. Annie and Lily-Ann are pupils at Hethersett Academy and Rhiannon attends the Notre Dame School in Norwich. 

More information on the Spanish slugs is available at www.slugwatch.co.uk. Citizen Science is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by members of the public.