Friday, 5 July 2013

Slugs and snails

I first came in close contact with slugs and snails when I moved to a house with a garden and planted some small salad plants. I woke up the next morning to find out that they were all gone or half-gone .Of course, I knew that there were snails and slugs but they had never bothered me much. I just found them nasty and slimy but they had never before ruined anything that was mine. However, not really being a keen gardener I gave up on the idea of planting anything edible and the flowers I planted either grew or not.

Having grown up in Holland with Dutch as my mother tongue, I did not realize for some time that the snails with a house and the snails without a house are called differently. In Dutch, we call them (translated into English): snails with a house and naked snails. This is the same in German (I lived in the German speaking part of Switzerland for over forty years). Therefore, it took me a while to realize that in English there are two different names for more or less the same (in my mind) animals.

Now, being married to a very keen gardener I have come to learn, unwillingly, a lot more about these slimy beasts. I now know that there are brown ones, black ones, slugs with strips, spotty one, etc.

This year especially there seem to be more slugs than ever before. Even though we had a long, cold winter with lots of snow. However, after winter, springtime seemed a long time in coming and up to now, it has been very, very wet.  Therefore, I can see my husband every evening going through the garden with a spade halving the slugs and getting angrier and angrier because so many of his beloved flowers are devastated by these creatures. He does not want to use slug pellets because of our small Yorkshire terrier Aischa as well as birds and other small animals. It seems very cruel to me to kill these slimy creatures by halving them. We have a friend who tells us the only way of getting rid of them is collecting them every evening, putting them in a hole in the ground,  pour boiling water over them and then covering them with a thin layer of soil and repeat this every evening. This is supposed to get also rid of the eggs. This sounds just as cruel to me but apparently, slug pellets also cause a very painful death.

This year there are also a lot more snails in our garden. My husband told me that they are harmless so when we see them on the road or in a hot spot we pick them up and put them somewhere out of harm’s way.
Being the argumentative person I am, I wanted to find out more about the difference between slugs and snails, especially with regard to what they eat, and, with the internet at my disposal, this was of course not too difficult.

I started by looking the two sorts up in Wikipedia but found that there was a lot of information on slugs but far less on snails. In addition, the information was too scientific for me and that was not what I was looking for.

Snails were never as repulsive to me as slugs are (I have never seen snails eating dog pooh but I have seen countless slugs devouring it) and I have eaten them as well (the snails, not the pooh). In addition, as far as I know, some snails are protected in France.

I found some very interesting articles though. Here are just a few: This explains snails in a very easy child friendly way, which even I can understand. A very snail friendly site from which I learned that snails could live up the ripe old age of 15 to 25 years and that some of them are kept as pets! Article from the daily mail on the fact that most snails sold as escargots do not come from France but from Eastern Europe. I have to show my husband this site, if only to show him that it is not really too much when he kills 50 slugs from our front yard, which is about 40 square meter. I have now learned that there could be 50/60 per square meter and that this can increase to even 100/200 during optimal conditions.

However, I can also tell my husband that he is wrong in saying that snails are not harmful. They are just as harmful as slugs. However, as there are far more slugs in our garden than snails, I think we can live with the snails. Or was this what he meant by calling them less harmful than slugs?

When I went out into the garden to make some pictures of snails (I did not want to take any pictures of the slugs as I do not like looking at them) I came across this woodant heap. When I asked my husband how he was going top get rid of this heap, he informed me that he was not as 'they will not hurt you'. He says the same about spiders and I know the ones we have here will not hurt me. However, with spiders I put my foot down - I will not share my private space with them, it will be either them or me!

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