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Homing Snails

  • Homing Snails
  • Homing Snails

I'm sorry to talk about snails again, but a couple of weeks ago, I found something amazing in my back garden.

It's a snail!

And what is so amazing about it?

The amazing part is that it has a blob of blue paint on the shell, which proves that it is the very same snail which, on the 24th May last year, I flung out of my garden, over the fence, and way out into the open grassy area next to my house.

For years, I've chosen to fling snails out of the garden rather than to deliberately, cold-heartedly kill them.

After all, I don't want them in my garden but they do have a job to do, in the wider scheme of things: they are part of nature's bin-men team, reducing plant waste to organic matter, recycling our dead greenery for the benefit of all. It's just annoying when they chomp on my prize plants, instead of eating the masses and masses of weeds which are freely available... but I am not a naturally cruel person (“no, I have to work on it!”) and, like many gardeners, I don't want to scatter chemicals around the place needlessly, nor do I want to deliberately kill a living creature just because it eats my plants.

OK, I'll make an exception to that last part for Vine Weevils, and for Lily Beetles, both of which I kill without a second thought whenever I find them.

But generally speaking, not a cruel person, blah blah, chemicals, microbacteria, blah blah, risk of poisoning to birds and hedgehogs, you know how it goes.

Like me, you might have read on the internet that snails do indeed have a homing sense: this is based on the work of a lady called Ruth Brooks, who did an informal experiment in her own garden, followed by a proper scientific one in 2010 in which she found that snails would return to “home” if relocated 20 yards/metres or so. Her conclusion was that snails need to be moved at least 30m, preferably 100m or more, in order to prevent them just schmoozing on back, at their average rate of a yard/metre an hour.

I didn't know about this, back in May, otherwise I might have flung it harder. Hmm, could this be a new Olympic sport? Snail hurling? Maybe not.

My overarm fling was probably barely 10 yards, which at the time I thought was sufficient to set this snail free. Did it take advantage of this second chance, to go and see the world outside my garden? Did it ramble off to explore the lovely hedgerow? No - it chose to laboriously inch its way back into my garden, presumably followed by all the other snails which I have ejected from my garden.

And here it is, back in my garden, lurking with a bunch of others in a tray full of small Box seedlings. Excuse me while I huff, indignantly.

What was I to do with it? I couldn't kill it, could I? We were practically friends. So I hurled him back over the fence, with at least twice as much vigour, and I'll let you know later this year if the cheeky blighter makes it back into my garden - again!

Comments (10)

  1. Grower

    Winifred Field

    Oh dear! That means I will have to round them up for next couple of months and take them on holiday with me in April and forget to bring them back!

  2. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Urgh, Winifred, the thought of packing snails to take on holiday is just too horrible to contemplate!

  3. Grower


    i love this story. i too have masses of snails and slugs that i’m loathe to kill but feel regularly frustrated by. i also do the sling ( trying to avoid neighbours that are in!) thing. i could just get a bucket full and walk to the park over the road.......

  4. Grower

    Winifred Field

    How to you explain walking to a park with a bucket? I know there are very few public loos now but ............!

  5. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Lovely mental image, Winifred: Rebecca strolling to the park, nonchalantly swinging a bucket full of snails. Neee norrrr neee norrr: "Excuse me madam, where do you think you're going with those?"

  6. Grower

    Clive McCormack

    The excuse could be "French" inspired Bar-B-Q ingredients!

  7. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Ugh! Clive, that's a horrible thing to say! (shudders theatrically)

  8. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Update - here we are, second of May, and guess who I just found in my back garden?

    Yes, our little friend "Bluey", sneakily lurking in the very same box of potted trees in which I found him back in early Feb, at which point I flung him with might and main out of my garden. Obviously, not enough might, or main!

    And yes, I flung him back out over the fence. Third time lucky?

    • Homing Snails
  9. Grower

    Winifred Field

    oh Rachel, you do make me smile. perhaps if postage wasn't so dear we could post our snails to the aussie outback and see how long before they get back! had planned on doing so much catching up in the garden this weekend now the weather has picked up, have sprained my wrist very badly so not much achieved at all and hence the lack of capitals in the typing win

  10. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Hallo Win (waves enthusiastically, and yet sympathetically)

    Poor you! What a time to sprain a wrist, just as we are seeing the sun for the first time in ages. Oh well, it's still quite cold, so maybe another week or two indoors won't be such a bad thing?

    And I love your idea of sending the snails to Australia!

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