Snail-mail for the Snails
Whether we send messages by email or by snail-mail, there can be problems. Emails can get viruses and snail-mail can be attacked by snails. See what I found had happened to a neighbour's snail-mail recently when she was away!
Obviously the snails thought that snail-mail was sent especially for them - "to read, devour and inwardly digest!"
Seriously, snails can be a problem, especially to gardeners. Even tiny gardens can be attacked, but before we look at what we can do to deal with the problem, let's have a closer look at these pesky creatures.
Pet Safe Snail Bait
Some Interesting Snail Titbits
Although snails are a pest, especially the introduced ones, they're interesting creatures. Some snails have gills and live in water, but our garden snails have a lung and as they live on the land, they're known as terrestrial gastropod mollusks and these are the ones we're looking at today.
- They have a history that goes back to pre-history. Primitive types have been found from way back in the Cambrian era.
- Snails cannot hear, but they can see and smell. I'm not sure about taste, but they do seem to be fussy eaters and will always go for the most tender young shoots on my most precious plants.
- Their shell is made of calcium carbonate.
- Snails have only one foot, but it is big. It is lubricated with mucus that helps it to progress without being injured. This leaves a silvery slime trail behind it.
- As any gardener knows, snails are most active at night.
- Snails are hermaphrodites, that means that they are both sexes, so they can mate with any other snail that they may meet.
- Snails can lay 100 eggs at a time.
- Baby snails are born with a tiny ready made shell.
- Their shell keeps growing as the snail grows until they reach adult size.
- Snails can live for up to 15 years or more.
- Snails are right-handed. No!! But they do usually have a shell that coils around to the right.
- Some Australian native snails are vegetarians, while others are carnivorous.
- Some African snails grow to be the largest snails in the world.
I haven't read about this anywhere, but I've noticed that snails seem able to repair their shells when damaged. When snails have been squashed gently, so that the shell is broken, but the creature not hurt, it will stay in that place and gradually build the shell up again until it can move away to a safe place to finish mending. Therefore, it seems kinder to squash them properly, so that the snail is killed, if we want to get rid of them.
Snails are Slow
Snails are slow - we knew that, but not how slow. it is said that their average speed is 1 mm per second.
In kindergarten my children learned a song:
Mrs. Snail, Mrs. Snail!
You leave a pretty silver trail
And we can see where you have been,
Slow, Mrs. Snail!
However, that's a bit of a misnomer, as they are hermaphrodites and so are both Mr. and Mrs!
Prevention for Humans is Important:
- Don't feed farm dogs with dead stock
- Give farm dogs regular prevention medication
- Only feed farm dogs with well-cooked or canned food
- Do not allow dogs to lick your face
- Wash your hands after handling dogs
Snails and Disease
Snails can carry a number of diseases and parasites and some of these can be harmful to humans. They are best handled with gardening gloves.
Don't eat garden snails, even edible snails should be well-cooked.
The Rat Lungworm: This disease had been linked to cysts developing in the brains of very young children, but this can only occur when they are eaten - and believe me, snails attract young children when young ones crawl in the garden and everything goes into their mouths.
Meningitis: Even adults can contract meningitis from eating snails if they are not well cooked.
Hydatids: As a child, we learned that snails carried hydatids. We were taught that on farms, when the snails climbed up grass stalks and were eaten by sheep the sheep would contract the hydatids, which are a type of tapeworm that gets into soft places like the liver and the brain, so the wild birds that ate the snails were very welcome.
I'm not sure if this is still what is believed, but I do know that sheep, camels, deer and dingoes and dogs can contract hydatids. Farm dogs are especially vulnerable, as they are sometimes fed the offal from dead sheep. When the dogs are infected, they can transfer the hydatids to humans, through licking the face or from their coat. Hydatids in humans can cause serious illness or death, but sometimes they can be removed from some organs with major surgery.
Snails for Dinner
Snails are edible and some creatures, including humans, eat snails. They were popular with the ancient Romans and around the Mediterranean as long as 6,000 years ago, and now in most of Europe and in various parts of Africa. There are farms that specialise in heliciculture and grow these special snails for the table. Now they are popular in gourmet restaurants around the world.
Have you ever noticed that when we want food, especially meat, to sound gourmet we change it to French. Some of the words have been Anglicised over time. Thus, pig becomes pork, cow becomes beef - and snail becomes Escargot! But they're really still snails. Actually with a lovely French garlic and butter sauce they taste rather good.
Snails for dinner anyone?
I have a funny story here:
Many years ago my husband had a scholarship and all the family sailed to England for a year. In early Spring we visited a local Roman villa (which was really interesting) and found lots of edible snails just coming out of hibernation. Having heard of these snails, we thought we'd like to try them and collected a whole billy-can full. We got a book from the Library and found that they should be starved for a few weeks so we put them in the apple store-room, covered the container with fine wire so they could breathe, and waited. As time drew on, we realized that a horrible smell met us every time we opened the store-room door. Yes, as they'd just come out of hibernations they were already starved, so we'd killed them!
No Roman snail orgy for us!
How do you feel about snails?
Snails Under Control
Some people actually have snails as pets, but as a gardener, I'm not one of them. Around here, we wage war on snails. Different people have diverse ways of dealing with them.
- Hunt Them: As they're most active at night, especially on a damp night, this is a good time to don a raincoat and go snail-hunting. Get the kids in on the act, too: maybe 5c for five snails. They can be squashed if you're not squeamish, otherwise put in a container with salt.
- Give them a bowl of beer: They love it! They climb over each other to get at it and fall in and drown. Some people think this would be a great way to go.
- Pet safe bait: This is my choice. I usually put it out at dusk and it's often gone by morning. However, it needs to be repeated frequently as it spoils in the rain or if you have been watering the garden. Also, the snail eggs are in the soil and they keep hatching, but eventually we begin to win!