Although slow worms, like snakes, are often feared and persecuted, they should be welcome visitors to gardens as they feed largely on slugs, snails and other slow-moving garden pests (5).
The scientific name Anguis fragilis means 'fragile snake' (2), and refers to the ability of this lizard to shed its tail when seized; the tail may continue to wriggle after being shed, and can distract predators while the slow worm escapes (5). A new tail begins to regenerate after a couple of weeks (2). Although this species is widespread, it is rather secretive (2)
The slow worm usually emerges from
in March, and courtship tends to take place between mid-May and late June, at which time males typically become aggressive towards each other (2). During courtship, a male takes hold of the female by biting her head or neck, and the bodies of the two lizards will become intertwined. Courtship may last for as long as 10 hours before copulation occurs (2). [hibernation]
Depending on the local climate, the female slow worm will mate annually or once every two years. The slow worm is ovoviviparous, and instead of laying eggs, the female gives birth to an average of eight live young between mid-August and mid-September. The young slow worms are initially encased in the egg membrane and measure from 70 to 100 millimetres in length. It takes between six and eight years for the slow worm to become fully grown, although the male reaches sexual maturity at three or four years of age. The female becomes sexually mature at four or five years of age (2).
This species is relatively long-lived, with one specimen known to have lived for 54 years (5). The skin of the slow worm is shed at intervals throughout its life (2).