What do slow worms eat? And other slow worm facts

Slow worm on soil
Look out for slow worms on woodland edges. (Photo: Nick Dean/WTML)

The slow worm is one of our native UK reptiles, and it's full of surprises! You can spot them throughout the UK, though you're most likely to see them in Wales and they're not found in Northern Ireland.

What do slow worms eat?

Slow worms eat slugs, snails and worms, plus some caterpillars and insects. They can eat up to 50 slugs a day so gardeners love them!

Slow worm and snake differences

A slow worm may look like a snake (or at least a very large worm), but it’s actually a legless lizard. There are several things that make it different to a snake.

  • Unlike snakes, it has eyelids so it can blink.
  • At up to 50cm long, it’s smaller and thinner that our common native snakes, the adder and the grass snake, which can grow to a metre long.
  • It can shed its tail to escape the jaws of predators, such as cats, foxes, hedgehogs and birds of prey. The tail wiggles around to distract the predator while the slow worm slithers away – that’s pretty clever!
  • It has a fleshy, blunt tongue with a little notch in it, while snakes have long forked tongues. A slow worm won’t bite you, whereas an adder can give you a nasty, poisonous bite if you bother it.
Slow worm close up with tongue out
Look out for blunt tongues and eyelids to distinguish a slow worm. (Photo: Amy Lewis/WTML)

Do slow worms lay eggs?

Slow worms don’t lay eggs. Instead they incubate their eggs inside their bodies and give birth to around eight fully-formed baby slow worms at a time. They’re born in a slimy egg sac, which breaks open soon after they emerge.

The breeding season starts in May and the young are usually born in late summer.

Do slow worms hibernate?

Around October, they burrow into the ground or find a crevice in a rotting tree stump or a cozy pile of leaves where they can snooze away the winter. In reptiles such as slow worms, this is called brumation. It’s not true hibernation, when creatures go into a deeper sleep, but it’s a way to save their energy during the colder months when there’s not much food around.

Keep exploring with Nature Detectives

Nature Detectives Membership is a great way to learn more about wildlife and the outdoors. Become a family member and each season, you’ll receive an exciting pack full of fascinating facts, activity ideas and nature-themed crafts, all while supporting our native woods and trees!