In the garden, few critters are more reviled than the loathsome garden snail. As pests go, they’re king of the hill. Since the birth of organized crop farming, we humans have been at war with the slimy land mollusk. And if you consider the natural order of living things, it may seem like we are winning the war (we have thumbs and walk upright, after all) but it’s fair to mention that snails have been sliming the earth for 600 million years, and we haven’t. It takes some serious survival skills to be one of the earliest living organisms to emerge on earth. Frankly, I think snails get a bad rap.
Get to know Helix aspersa, and you won’t be left wondering how it has endured for eons. The common garden snail is anatomically quite imposing; some might even say, intimidating. They may appear fragile, but they’re built for the ages. In fact, snails can mortgage space in your garden for as many as 15 years, that is if they can keep out from under the bottom of your shoe, evade their natural predators, and resist Home Depot’s snail bait. In the winter when you think you have won the war with the snails because they’ve all but disappeared, you haven’t. They’re hibernating, living off stored fat.
As hermaphrodites, snails possess both male and female sex organs; when they mate, they each fertilize the other’s eggs. When times are tough, snails can even fertilize themselves.
For a critter that is mostly vegetarian, they’re voracious indeed. Snails have thousands of teeth on a thin ribbon called a radula. Their belly is actually a strong muscular organ called a foot. Huh? The thick mucus on their foot allows them to slither over sharp rocks, hot ground and even broken glass and razor blades without injury. While they are not the slowest in the animal kingdom (that prize goes to coral, an animal that does not move at all), snails are comically slow creatures; it takes 32 hours for the fastest known snails to travel just one mile. That’s actually not bad for a spineless creature with only one lung that has to carry their house piggy-back everywhere they go.
Having conducted research for this article, I admit that I’ve gained a healthy respect for the lowly snail. Whether or not that translates to sparing them the wrath of my shoe leather is yet to be seen.
Editor’s note- photos by: wikipedia.com, helagonia.gr
How do you deal with snails and slugs in your garden?
This article is the nineteenth in a series of 26 consecutive articles, as part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the whole month of April. Tomorrow, I’ll post an article with a title that begins with the letter “T”… So goes the rest of the alphabet, through the end of the month.