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April 1, 2009 > Pat Kite's Garden: Snail trails return

Pat Kite's Garden: Snail trails return

By Pat Kite

Once again I am putting out snail bait plus squishing snails. They are everyplace, momma x poppa and itsy bitsy polka-dot bikini baby snails. The gentleman who rescues errant snails will probably send me another castigating note. I am sorry. While I admire some snail characteristics, they are eating my plants with 21,000 sawlike tongue teeth. I go out every day and talk to my plants. Sometimes it's just what remains of my plants; which is why I don't like snails. But, why do I somewhat admire them?

I can get lost anyplace. Snails are said to have a homing instinct. If you throw them into another site and your garden has better snacks, they may return, albeit at a speed of about 0.034 miles per hour. Tuck them into your deep pickup garbage bin, way at the bottom, with lots of greenery to easily munch and they seem to know possible fate. So they crawl all the way out, sit on bin top, and survey garden pickings with two little eyes on the tip of their top two tentacles. How would one know it's the same snail thoughtfully plopped in? Each snail has its own markings, similar to our individual fingerprints. Snails also have a longer known pedigree than I have. Snail genealogy has been traced back, via archaeological sites, at least 12,000 years. They have been eaten as long ago as the Pleistocene world, probably without parsley and garlic butter, but who knows. Despite my children's persnickety commentary, I do not date back that far.

As you may know, Helix aspersa garden snails are not North American natives. They were brought to this country from Europe about 1850. Some entrepreneur aimed to make a profit on breeding food snails. A few escaped to a world with few natural enemies. Snails are male and female in the same body. But they still need to mate with another snail to produce offspring, which is why you might see them getting rather cozy. Eggs are laid in damp soil. Each garden snail will deposit about 40 round transparent eggs. A few weeks later, even more snails. If you want to read about the thrills of snail reproduction, check out NationalGeographic.com/News "Are Snails' "Love Darts" Source of Cupid Lore?"

If you don't like to eat snails, and would prefer they be elsewhere, including snail heaven, what can you do? There are all kinds of snail bait on the marketplace. Read the label, twice: poisonous for pets; some good around veggies, some not. Rain and watering diminishes. If you want to try shallow beer pans, getting snails so tiddled that they drown, it makes a good experiment. Protective barriers as sand or cinders are made useless by snail slime coverings. Placing them in a sealed container for the pickup bin works. And, possibly, collecting snails and thoughtfully taking them to a safer place than a home garden. Yes, one kind gentleman did it. Have a lovely spring has finally sprung day!

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