The slow worm is a type of lizard quite common in the garden. It is harmless to humans and is appreciated by the gardener as it devours all sorts of invertebrates.
The slow worm is widely considered to be a snake, bu, despite appearances, it is part of the anguidae family, and belongs in fact to the sub-order of lizards. It is a type of legless lizard !
Its capacity to lose part of its tail when attacked was inherited from the lizard.
Unlike the snake, the slow worm has the same type of scales all over its body and can blink its eyes, as its eyelids are mobile. It is similar to the lizard in that its eardrum is hidden beneath its scales. This animal can be found throughout Europe, as far as Russia, and is also present in some hot countries like Iran, Algeria and Turkey.
It has an elongated body of up to 50 cms. in length, has no legs, is covered with tiny smooth scales, which vary in colour from grey to brown. The female’s body has dark stripes running lengthways down its stomach, which make it prettier than the male. It can easily live up to thirty years old !
The slow worm is often to be seen close to a source of humidity, under leaves in a shady place, or in high grass, under cardboard boxes or a sheet of metal, in fact it can be found anywhere humid where it is likely to find small invertebtrates on which it feeds. It especially likes to eat snails, slugs, earthworms, caterpillars, woodlice, and various types of larvae.
It is therefore very useful to the gardener ! A compost heap is thus a perfect place for it to seek food and to shelter from the cold during the winter.
In winter, the slow worm either hides away or digs a tunnel for itself, the opening of which it closes with earth and moss. It generally hibernates in a group, with each colony comprising 50 to 100 individuals.
It starts to reproduce in the good weather at the age of four. It lays its eggs, from 5 to 20 per clutch, at the end of summer.
Did you know ?
The official classifications for a long time classified only one type of slow worm throughout the world, but after close examination, biologists corrected their error and now two types are officially recognized : the Anguis fragilis and the Anguis cephallonica.