Slow worm


©Bruce Shortland

Slow worm pair mating

©D.A. Trebilco

slow worm

Jim Higham

Slow worm

Scientific name: Anguis fragilis
Despite appearances, the slow worm is actually a legless lizard, not a worm or a snake! Look out for it basking in the sun on heathlands and grasslands, or even in the garden, where it favours compost heaps.

Species information


Length: 40-50cm
Weight: 20-100g
Average lifespan: up to 20 years

Conservation status

Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

When to see

March to October


The slow worm is neither a worm nor a snake, but is, in fact, a legless lizard - its identity is given away by its abilities to shed its tail and blink with its eyelids.

Slow worms can be found in heathland, tussocky grassland, woodland edges and rides where they can find invertebrates to eat and a sunny patch in which to sunbathe. They are often found in mature gardens and allotments, where they like hunting around the compost heap. However, if you have a cat, you are unlikely to find them in your garden as cats predate them. Like other reptiles, slow worms hibernate, usually from October to March.

How to identify

The slow worm is much smaller than a snake and has smooth, golden-grey skin. Males are paler in colour and sometimes sport blue spots, while females are larger, with dark sides and a dark stripe down the back.


Found throughout the country, except for most Scottish islands, Northern Ireland and most of the Channel Islands.

Did you know?

The mating season for slow worms kicks off in May and males become aggressive towards each other. During courtship, the male takes hold of the female by biting her head or neck, and they intertwine their bodies. Courtship may last for as long as 10 hours! Females incubate the eggs internally, 'giving birth' to an average of eight young in summer.