“It is unknown how long the bean slug has been established in Mexico,” Manuel de Luna, a researcher from the Herpetological Society of Northeast Mexico, told news outlets.
“It’s widespread, from America to Asia, as well as some European countries. It is very adaptable and will thrive in any environment that is hot and humid,” he added. Wildlife experts believe the slug came from somewhere in South America but has since spread globally.
The slug is an annoying problem for various essential crop plants, such as beans, chilies, tomatoes, and cucumbers. In addition, it can also cause severe medical implications.
Bean slug acts as host for rat parasite
According to researchers, the bean slug is an intermediate host for rat lungworm. The lungworm is a parasitic nematode that can cause gastroenteritis and neuromuscular damage if someone is exposed.
“The larvae inside the snail [or slug] reside in the tissue and are constantly shed in the mucus, which can infect anything it touches,” de Luna said.
As you might deduce from the name, rat lungworm is a parasite that stems from rodents. The adult form only exists inside rats, producing larvae that move through the animal’s feces.
Later, snails and slugs get infected by eating these larvae, which age inside the mollusks. Eventually, a rat chomps on the infected mollusk and the cycle starts again.
“Infecting the mollusk is not the final goal of the worm. No, it is merely a step … which is used by the worm to get to its final destination, a warm-blooded animal, the definitive host,” de Luna said.
In addition, if a human eats an infected mollusk, directly or accidentally, via raw vegetables contaminated with slime, they can become infected. However, in most cases, they will show no symptoms. Yet, in rare cases, the lungworm larvae can cause eosinophilic meningitis, a potentially fatal brain infection.
The research that the everyday Terrestrial snail sucker is a natural predator of these slugs could have major implications for how wildlife authorities control this invasive species.
“I’d say that [the snakes] are very common, albeit quite secretive,” de Luna said. “Although human activities certainly have taken a toll on them, as with many other species, they are adaptable and prolific. As long as there are plenty of snails, slugs, and earthworms, they can survive.”
In addition, other snake species have been seen eating the bean slugs too. “They seem pretty popular among native slug-eating predators,” de Luna said.