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While slugs may be slimy, and possibly unwelcome in your garden because of the damage they can do to your plants, these little creatures aren't poisonous to humans. Mollusks like slugs are generally harmless to handle, but they can carry parasites that can transmit to people via accidental ingestion on unwashed produce.
Handling Marvelous Mollusks
While slugs are generally considered garden pests, these little guys feed on your valuable vegetation and on decaying plant matter and other organic matter like animal feces. These creatures are like the cleanup crews of the natural world who move along by secreting a trail of bitter mucus. Unfortunately, because of their icky diet, if you handle a harmless slug and don't wash your hands afterward you could ingest one of the parasites the creatures might carry, warns the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Slithery Slug Dangers
Accidentally ingesting a slug in your salad won't necessarily hurt you; some people even cook and eat them with no issues. Some slugs feed on rat feces, though, where they pick up the parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis, commonly called the rat lungworm, which causes meningitis in humans. Because slugs can vary in length from a quarter-inch to 8 inches, it's easy to miss smaller ones among unwashed salad greens, vegetables or fruits. Avoid issues by washing all of your produce thoroughly and washing your hands after handling any wild or pet slugs.
- Oregon State University: Snails/Slugs
- Daily Mail Online: Slimy Summer Invasion: Don't be Beastly to Slugs, They're Just Snails With Bad PR
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Parasites -- Angiostrongyliasis (Also Known as Angiostrongylus Infection)
- The New York Times: Australia: Man’s Serious Illness Shows the Danger of Daring to Eat a Garden-Variety Slug
- North Dakota State University Extension Service: Questions on: Slugs
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Snails, Slugs, and Semi-Slugs: A Parasitic Disease in Paradise
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images