Teme Valley Musings, October 2018

by Stephanie Mocroft

This month I’m writing about slow worms. There are three types of lizard in the British Isles: the common lizard, the sand lizard and the legless lizard. The latter is better known as the slow worm (or blind worm), although it is not slow/blind and not a worm. Slow worms are quite common in the Teme Valley. Their Latin name is Anguis fragilis. Anguis means snake, which it is not, because the bone structure of the skull classifies it as a lizard, plus it does not have the forked tongue of the snake, and it possesses eyelids. The term fragilis is appropriate however and refers to the fact that the tail is fragile, readily breaking off if firmly held. This allows a quick escape from a predator, and eventually grows back.Slow worms are light grey-brown and youngsters have a black stripe down the middle of the back. The underside is lighter. In size, eleven inches is usual for a mature adult. They are thought to be the most long-lived of all lizards and can reach over fifty years old.Slow worms eat small insects and invertebrates, so they are good to have near your vegetable patch. In August or September six to twelve young are produced from eggs. Young slow worms are about two inches in length. Over winter the creatures hibernate and wake up again in the spring.