May is an excellent time of year to look out for our native legless lizard, the slow-worm. Breeding takes place in May and this can be a dramatic process to witness. Not only do males compete aggressively over mates, but during courtship they will grasp the female roughly by the neck, and mating can then last for up to 10 hours! Courtship is easily mistaken for fighting, so being able to tell males and females apart can be helpful. Male slow-worms are grey or brown all over, and some have bright blue spots along the back. Females are usually brown on top with dark sides and belly, and a dark line down the back.
Slow-worms are a common garden species and the perfect gardener’s friend, as they love to eat garden pests such as slugs. They are particularly fond of compost heaps and warm hiding places such as log piles or under tin roofing, so these are good places to look for them. Despite their snake-like appearance, slow-worms can be distinguished from snakes by their shiny appearance, bullet-shaped heads, and blinking abilities (snakes lack eyelids!)