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Mystery Insect Eggs

Welcome to a new series I’m trying out for 2023 – Ask a Naturalist!

Do you have a question about plants, animals, or habitats but Google is falling short? Do you need some PEI-specific information that requires local knowledge? Is there something about the natural world you have always wondered about but didn’t know who to ask? Now you can Ask a Naturalist (hint: that’s me 😊).

Full disclosure: I don’t know everything! But I do know a range of experts in various areas that I can tap into to try and get the answers I don’t have. You can send your questions to me via Facebook messenger, e-mail, or chat (you can find both my e-mail and a chat box on my website: PEI-untamed). Depending on volume, they may not all get posted here, but I’ll do my best to at least answer the askers!

First up is this cool photo from Kim Bradford, who found these insect eggs under a rock and wondered what they were. These are Slug eggs!

This mystery photo was sent by Kim Bradford. These are slug eggs.

There are ten species of Slugs likely present on PEI. I say ‘likely’ because we don’t have a good handle on the local diversity, abundance, or distribution of these Molluscs. (Yes, Slugs are in the same family as our famous Mussels, Oysters, and Scallops!). Most of us find Slugs much less appealing than Snails (or shellfish!), although Slugs are essentially Snails that have lost or greatly reduced their shells.

Native Slugs play important ecological roles, particularly in forests and forested wetlands. As decomposers, they contribute to soil formation and nutrient cycling. They also help with seed dispersal and provide a source of protein and calcium for a range of other invertebrates, birds, and mammals. If Slugs are the bane of your flower or vegetable garden, don’t blame these guys! Our native species are rarely plant pests and feed mostly on dead vegetation, fungi, and lichens.

It's non-native Slugs such as the Grey Gardenslug (Deroceras reticulatum), Giant Gardenslug (Limax maximus), and Dusky Arion Slug (Arion subfuscus) that damage not only backyard gardens but also commercial crops. In addition to being a source of horticultural woe, non-native Slugs can displace native Slug species, interfere with nutrient cycling, and put added pressure on native plants and lichens, including species-at-risk.

Slugs overwinter as eggs – like those seen here – under rocks, wood, leaves, or in the top layer of soil. As weather warms, these eggs will hatch into the next generation. When I find Slug eggs in natural habitats, I give them the benefit of the doubt, assume they are native species, and leave them be. Slug eggs in my garden are a different matter! Those are most likely non-native pests, so I’ll dig them out and dump them in a bucket of soapy water.

If you have a question about PEI’s wild side, it’s likely others do too! So, follow me here or on Facebook, join the conversation, and Ask a Naturalist about PEI untamed!

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