Snail lessons

[Updated below]

I’ve spent the weekend out in the garden which has turned into quite the snail lesson for me.

You see, I’m not from a snail-friendly environment so never learned how to deal with them. And that means that I spent an incredible amount of time yesterday watching them in the garden, trying to figure out what to do with them.

As many people do these days, I took to Facebook to ask my friends for tips and advice. The suggestions ranged from cooking ideas to killing ideas (some of which were crueller than others). But I couldn’t bring myself to eat or kill them.

Then someone joked about painting numbers on them, relocating them, and waiting to see if they returned. (You know, like a homing pigeon.)

Now, they were only joking but I was intrigued with the idea so I grabbed a bottle of blue nail polish and marked two snails: (1) A brown snail named Emma and (2) a smaller, yellow-ish snail named Jo. I then relocated each to the opposite side of the garden so that I could track (1) how far they travelled each day and (2) if they returned to their original location.

This morning I went to track their progress and noticed that both Emma and Jo had moved, but I couldn’t see where they’d got to. So I went about my gardening chores wondering if I would stumble upon them.

Later, as I moved the last of the pots for re-planting, I saw Emma. She’d moved about three feet from where she was last night and she seemed alive. Then, on closer inspection, I noticed that the shell just below the polish seemed to be breaking down – and Emma seemed to be moving slowly even for a snail.

This realisation upset me because I realised that the polish may have had a detrimental effect on the shell’s composition. Still, I held out hope. When I finished potting the plants, I went to the shops, noting that Emma was very near where I left her.

A few hours later, I began moving all of my freshly re-potted plants to their new homes, all the while wondering where Emma and Jo had got to. And as I moved the last of the pots, I spotted Emma’s shell on the side of the wood barrel.

Only Emma didn’t look right. So I got closer. And that’s when I noticed that the shell was empty and had disintegrated even more.

I don’t know if Emma ran away or if she shrivelled up and died or if something ate her. But I know her shell is now empty and I feel bad. I feel as if know it’s my fault.

I’ve not found Jo yet, but I fear she may have met a similar fate.

I mourn. I really do.

I’ve also learned a lot. I’ve learned that snails and slugs are not the same things. And that snails have some pretty major internal workings inside those shells. And that a 39-year-old woman ought to know better than to torture poor wee creatures – even if she doesn’t realise she’s torturing them.

Anyhow, the moral of the story is this: Don’t be mean to living creatures. It’s not nice.

UPDATE: A friend of mine shared a link with me after I posted this that confirms two things: (1) Snails do have a homing sense and (2) nail polish won’t harm them. So the fact that poor Emma passed on may just be a coincidence. Still, my snail painting days are over.

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