Slow worm

slow worm
slow worm found during reptile survey / Sue Curnock

There’s a good chance you might have reptiles living in your garden! Or somewhere nearby with a bit of rough ground, some long grass, a hedge - anywhere that looks a bit ‘untidy’. Look for them under things like bricks or large stones or anything flat that warms up in the sun. A piece of old carpet is ideal.

Slow worms are actually lizards without legs. They are covered in tiny scales - much smaller than the scales on a snake. The males are usually plain brown all over, but sometimes if you look very closely you may see a few blue scales dotted along their back. The females usually have a wide dark strip along their sides. They do often move quite slowly, but if they’ve warmed up in the sun they can disappear very quickly. Slow worms are completely harmless and won’t bite.

Often slow worms have a ‘stumpy’ tail - that’s because they shed their tails if they slow worm are caught by a predator or handled roughly, and the tail doesn’t grow back!

Most reptiles lay eggs, but the slow worm gives birth to live young in the autumn, so you often see females in compost heaps or other warm places, ‘brooding’ the developing babies inside her. The baby slow worms are stripy black and gold. You can help slow worms by keeping an undisturbed compost heap in your garden, and never, ever, use slug pellets.