It wasn’t until I started gardening in London that I saw my first Legless Lizard / Slow Worm. Over the past few years their population has increased in my area of South-East London. This year there appears to be a bumper crop of them around. While clearing an area of unused land recently I lifted up an old door to find that in the scrub grass there were around eight living there. I gently replaced the door and won’t garden this section.
You can find them throughout Britain, Scandinavia, Turkey, Estonia, Latvia, Russia, Lithuania, Iran, Algeria, Tunisia, Iberian Peninsula eastwards to Greece including surrounding countries of the Black Sea plus parts of North Africa.
The average length of these lizards are between 40 to 50cm and can have a lifespan of up to 20 years! They are protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act and shouldn’t be handled or moved from where you find them. They are active in the garden from March to October. Every time I’ve put down black plastic sheeting or a piece of corrugated iron, a few months later I find lots of them taking shelter and enjoying the extra warmth that is created.
Males take 4 years to reach sexual maturity and 5 years for female. The male legless lizard will hold the female by her neck as part of the courtship ritual, they then intertwine their bodies for up to several hours. The pregnancy takes up to 4 months and will give birth in August and September. Rather than laying eggs the female gives birth to live baby legless lizards, they are covered in a thin membrane that breaks after birth. On overage a newborn is 10cm long, taking up to 8 years to reach full adult size.
What do Legless Lizards / Slow Worms eat?
Their diet consists of slugs and snails so they are a useful addition to any garden. Mostly active during dusk there is still a chance you’ll see them on very hot days.
When the Legless Lizard / Slow Worm is picked up or feels threatened it sheds its tail. It will continue to move for up to a minute in a ploy to distract the enemy while they slide off into safety. Their tail will regrow over time.
When do Legless Lizards / Slow Worms Hibernate?
They hibernate from October to March. Be careful when cleaning the garden during Autumn and Winter. If you do find any, leave them where they are and move onto another area of the garden.