What Do Slow Worms Eat? | Diet, Habitat, Identification & More!

Everything You Need To Know

Whether you are a nature enthusiast or simply intrigued by these legless lizards join us as we uncover what slow worms eat and gain a deeper understanding of their lifestyle.

Our gardeners at Easthampstead Park have had the wonderful opportunity to come across these fascinating reptiles which inspired us to delve deeper into learning about them.

Get ready to embark on a journey of discovery into the intriguing world of slow worms.

What Do Slow Worms Eat?

Slow worms enjoy feasting on various invertebrates such as slugs, snails and spiders.

Even though they prefer slower-moving targets their teeth which curve backward are designed to grip onto wriggly or slippery creatures effectively.

Do Slow Worms Eat Woodlice?

Slow worms do eat woodlice however they don't make up a huge part of their diet. Woodlice provide a good source of moisture and nutrients for slow worms for sure but they tend to eat more soft-bodied species such as earth worms. They have small teeth to grip slippery invertebrate prey like woodlice but it seems their taste buds are more suited to other insect species as a preference.

Do Slow Worms Eat Ants?

Slow worms can certianly use their slender shape to raid ant and termite nests for larvae and eggs. Ant larvae and eggs are soft, nutritious prey easily consumed by slow worms. Adult ants contain formic acid which can irritate slow worms, but they'll still occasionally eat them if no other food source is present.Their tough scaly skin protects Slow Worms them from ant bites. Although there is limited information about slow worms specifically consuming ants, it's certain that they do enjoy feeding on various other small insects.

Do Slow Worms Eat Worms?

Certain earthworm species like the common brandling worm are widespread in slow worm habitats like gardens and meadows. Their availability makes them frequent prey. Smaller worm species like potworms, threadworms, and flatworms are also eaten. Their soft bodies are easy for slow worms to digest.

Find out for yourself if slow worms eat worms by watching the video below!



What is a Slow Worm? 

Despite its misleading name the slow worm (Anguis fragilis) is not actually slow nor is it a worm. Slow worms have long, smooth, shiny bodies that are either grey or brown in colour.

Often mistaken for a snake the slow worm is actually a unique legless lizard native to Britain.

Where do Slow Worms Live?

Slow worms prefer to spend most of their time in dense vegetation or underground particularly in moist and overgrown areas like rough grasslands and woodland.

You can even find them in urban spaces such as gardens and allotments.

Unfortunately, there is growing concern that the habitat destruction is leading to a decline in the number of slow worms.

How long do Slow Worms live?

In the wild slow worms have been known to live for up to 30 years. There is even a record of a slow worm reportedly living for an impressive 54 years in captivity at the Copenhagen Zoo.

Slow Worm or Snake? How to Distinguish

There are many distinctive differences between a slow worm and a snake.

1.    Slow worms have eyelids, so they blink unlike snakes.

2.    The tongue of a slow worm is notched, while snakes have a more forked tongue.

3.    Slow worms lack a clear neck, making their head blend into the body.

4.    Adult slow worms are smaller than the UK's native snakes and can reach 50 centimetres long. The smooth snake which is the smallest snake in the UK can reach 70 centimetres.

5.    Slow worms have smooth scales while many snakes have rough scales.

6.    Slow worms shed their skin in patches, unlike snakes that shed their skin all at once.


How do slow worms reproduce?

During the breeding season which occurs from May to Jun slow worms go through a challenging time.

Males become aggressive and compete for a mate. The male slow worm bites the female's neck or head as part of the mating process which can last up to 10 hours.

Slow worms are ovoviviparous meaning they lay eggs inside their bodies. The eggs hatch internally and the young slow worms stay inside the female feeding on the egg yolk.

Eventually, the female gives birth to live young.

Why did slow worms lose their legs?

Slow worms in the UK are special because they are legless lizards but it's not uncommon for lizards to have no legs.

Many lizard species worldwide including relatives of the slow worm have no legs and some have tiny legs.

Evolution has led to the reduction or complete loss of limbs multiple times especially among lizards with elongated bodies that burrow or live in tall grass.

Slow worms spend a lot of time digging into soft soil and rotting plants. Usually around In October they dig underground to hibernate and stay there until March.

Do slow worms bite?

Slow worms are calm reptiles that are generally tolerant of human presence and rarely bite. You can handle slow worms gently without danger if you need to move them or want to reassure a child that they are harmless.

Where to spot slow worms?

Look out for legless lizards basking in the sun especially on warm days. You might spot them in the woods or even in your own garden. Slow worms like to hang out near compost heaps to soak up the warmth.


How to attract Slow Worms?

Here are some ways to attract slow worms to your garden:

1.    Create a habitat: Leave piles of sticks, pruning’s, and logs undisturbed in a quiet corner of the garden. These provide a home for garden bugs and insects that slow worms feed on.

2.    Encourage biodiversity: Allow an area of your garden to grow wild, attracting a variety of beneficial insects and restoring the natural balance.

3.    Set up a compost heap: Let it naturally rot down for several months, creating a warm nest site for slow worms and a sheltered space for overwintering.

4.    Be mindful when using compost: Take care not to disturb sheltering creatures when turning or using your garden compost.

5.    Provide water sources: Keep a shallow bowl of water for wildlife and ensure ponds and pools have a gentle slope for easy access.

6.    Create sunbathing spots: Slow worms love to bask in the sun on gravel, stones, or other heat-retaining surfaces. Leave a suitable area exposed to sunlight in a quiet spot.

7.    Minimise pesticide use: Reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides in your garden to preserve the natural balance and ensure a steady food supply for slow worms and other creatures.

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We hope you enjoyed learning about slow worms.

If you liked this article and share our love for animals feel free to explore our blog on UK Deer Species.

Our gardeners at Easthampstead Park have had the pleasure of encountering these amazing reptiles.

We invite you to check out our fantastic venue today and join us for a drink, dining experience, or hotel stay.

Explore our grounds and look out for the many species that call our place home.



Frequently Asked Questions Related To What Do Slow Worms Eat

Q: Do slow worms eat woodlice?
A: Yes, slow worms have an appetite for woodlice however primary feast on slugs, spiders and earth worms.

Q: Do slow worms eat spiders?
A: Yes, slow worms do eat spides as well as other invertebrates.

Q: How can you tell if a slow worm is male or female?
A: Slow worms have a glossy look. Male slow worms are greyish brown, while females are brown with dark sides. Some females have a slender line running along their back.

Q: Are slow worms endangered in the UK?
A: Slow worms are legally protected in Great Britain, which means it is illegal to harm, kill, or trade them. Unfortunately, their population is decreasing in the UK, and they are considered a "Priority Species."

Q: Is it good to have slow worms in your garden?
A: Slow worms are harmless and beneficial allies to gardeners. They have a diet consisting of slow-moving prey such as slugs and other garden pests. These legless lizards are commonly found in gardens and thrive in damp and boggy areas near woodlands or tufty grasslands. Embracing their presence can contribute to a natural balance in your garden ecosystem.