This afternoon, we had some visitors in our Wildscape. Gail brought over her husband, their daughter Page, and three granddaughters–Michaela, Annabelle and Everlee. Right away, Annabelle found a snail near our fire pit. I smiled. Then I mentioned how James had found LOTS of them this morning after last night's rains. So many, in fact, that he had to dispatch them.
"What does 'dispatch' mean?" Annabelle asked.
"He sent them to heaven," I answered meekly.
See, quite a while back, I declared war on milk snails (Otala lactea). I don't care to have these guys in our gardens. They're not native, and they can become quite prolific. I've seen photos of infestations. I don't want an infestation here. So I smush them whenever I meet up with them.
Then I met Ted. Or was it Fred? Slime? I'm not sure what Annabelle decided on as a final name, but the personable snail went home with her. Nearly the whole time she held him, the little toot stretched his neck out and twisted and turned in his shell. So entertaining. Later, I found myself ignoring a snail when I saw one attached to a plant in the back yard. I forget where.
Anyway, the girls and I came up with all kinds of questions related to Ted (Fred?). Like what does he eat? Does he outgrow his shell? Are his eyes in his antennae?
I did some quick research and found out that milk snails, which are native to Europe and North Africa, eat foliage (not good). On the flip side, THEY'RE edible. One source says that these "plant-feeding snails cause only minor damage" and that this species produces "an average of 66 eggs per clutch, and two clutches per month, depositing them in loose soil." Yikes, no wonder they can multiply so quickly!
Does a snail outgrow his shell? No. As a snail grows, so does its shell. As a snail matures, according to this page, "the number of whorls or spirals which its shell has increases, as do the rings that grow inside the shell. Much like the way we think about tree rings, these rings inside a snail's shell can be used to approximate the snail's age."
What about eyes? Yes, Annabelle, those tiny black spots at the tips of your snail's antennae ARE eyes! Check out "The Eyes of Snails" for lots more information.
As for all the other Teds, Freds and Slimes in our Wildscape, I'm afraid I'm still going to....well.....They're not native, remember....Well, hmmmm....I'm just not going to think about them tonight.