Summer is finally here, and as you head down to the coast to enjoy ice creams and sandcastles how about looking out for beach bugs? The Sea slater (Ligia oceanica) is an impressive beast, they are related to the woodlice you can find in your back garden but are much larger – they can grow up to 3cm long!
Sea slaters live on the shore above the high tide mark, they can be found running across rocks, on groynes and in the strandline. The best time to go out hunting for Sea slaters is in the evening when they are most active; during the day they hide under stones and seaweed and in cracks in the rock.
|Sea slater (Ligia oceanica) © Steve Trewella|
Like other members of the woodlouse family Sea slaters are recyclers – they help to keep the shore tidy by eating dead plant and animal material washed up on the shore.
Sea slaters and woodlice are members of a group of crustaceans called the Isopoda (iso meaning "same" and pod meaning "foot"). There are thought to be around 10,000 species of isopod around the world – around half live in the sea, the other half live on the land or in fresh water like ponds, lakes and rivers.
Sea slaters and other strandline bugs such as sandhoppers, seaweed flies and beach beetles are under threat on some beaches from mechanical beach cleaning. Whilst it is important to keep our beaches free of litter and other rubbish, mechanical beach cleaning destroys the strandline habitat in which these creatures live. Alternative methods such as hand picking remove the litter whilst preserving the standline habitat.