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Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Are snails like homing pigeons?

Personally, I have never had any problem stomping on snails. It's a speedy death and, I imagine, a painless one. They would probably prefer that to being slowly poisoned by those horrible little green pellets that people spread around their gardens. And for us, it is better than having to eat them, as the French like to do, and better than have them chewing away at our beloved home-grown vegetables.

This post was prompted by a Facebook friend who said she could never kill a snail. Instead, she would pick them up in a gloved hand and throw them over the fence into a neighbour's garden. Well, I am glad this friend doesn't live near me!

My response to my friend's admission was that she was wasting her time because snails were like homing pigeons and they would always find their way back into her garden. I meant this as a joke, but is it true?

A friend of my friend said she had once tested this out. She had gathered all the snails she could find in her garden and painted their shells with bright red nail polish. She then dropped them into a garden a couple of doors away. Sure enough, the snails were back in her garden flaunting their nail polish a few days later.

This got me sniffing around the internet to see if there had been any research into the possibility that snails had homing instincts. Sure enough there was a Guardian article that said they did know their way back to their original homes, but only if the distance was less than 20 metres.

There you are. My joke turned out to be true after all. So, you might as well do what I do and stomp on them, although some of you will no doubt write me off as a truly cruel and nasty snail-hating bastard. Perhaps that is also true.

LATER ADDITION: On a more serious note, hedgehogs are very good at keeping snails and slugs under control. The difficulty is getting one of the various hedgehog societies to agree to you having some, as they need to be carefully housed and looked after.

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