Homage to the Snail

Is the story about a home-sick frenchie bringing down the plague 'o snails a base canard? I've never checked, because it's too good a story to risk disproving. Certainly these are the edible type; and a potential bulwark against hunger if it comes to armageddon. Do you doubt they'd only be encouraged by the effects of what Terry Southern called(and the immortal Slim Pickens got these choice lines) 'nuclear combat' ?
My formidable Invertebrate Zoology professor told us he'd surveyed populations in his LA garden(contained in a standard 50 x 150 foot lot), and picked 100 of these per diem one summer without reducing their density. I've never found cause to be skeptical. I wonder--I've the same question about eating acorns-- why nobody seems to want to utilize this source of high-quality protein. At least we could dispense with the compelling need to oysterfarm in Pt. Reyes by turning to this equally cherished molluscan treat.
My lifelong antagonism directed against the brown snail is the very metaphor of futility. Sysphus, forsooth! Nothing--and I mean nothing--is off the table in this vendetta between us apex parasites. My most satisfying ally was a box turtle; who would elegantly seize them by the neck while delicately hooking one claw over the rim of the shell's mouth and extract the beast with a flourish worthy of Brillat -Savarin. Or when impatient, just open wide, and crunch! Or give a brace of little boys a salt shaker...

Today is a day after rain, and I tarried when leaving after stepping on several by accident. I grabbed my trusty bucket and picked 376gms of snail in 5 minutes. These go into the compost. Set around are also 10 cups with a young friend's rejected home beer. Matt told me he'd some results with this oft-mentioned technique. An indeed, I have about 15 floaters in the beer. Hence: at least as helpful as a pet turtle. Matt says that they are attracted to the yeasty smell, and are dehydrated by the dilute alcohol: an important point, as they must suffer as they die!

So what's so bad about metaldehyde bait? It does work; so any gardener who never uses it may be suspected of insincerity. My technique is to cruise with light and bucket on any damp morning, or after dark after watering. Their distribution is always in clusters; so whatever you set out is put where you found large numbers. With metaldehyde, the next morning you'll see 10X what you hand picked clustered on the bait. i suppose a rigorous and systematic program might actually suppress populations; but I've never really accomplished that yet

Posted by icosahedron icosahedron, May 26, 2011 14:30


Photos / Sounds



Garden Snail Cornu aspersum




May 26, 2011


Needs no introduction; I've always heard an exotic brought by one of the snail-eating frenchpersons, thinking that all California lacked was a culinary snail. Mission accomplished!


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