October 01, 2013

Slugs and Snails and Puppydog Tails

Conversation overheard by Christine Boardman, while working in a Hosta garden in Chester Basin.

“Welcome to Tim Hosta’s!  What may I get for you this morning Sam?”

“Hi Sall!  Two double doubles, please and a slice of Alba Marginata.  Susan’s slugging along behind me, and would like a piece of Flavocicinalis, please!”

“Yes, she loves her blue Hostas doesn’t she!”

“Thanks , Sall.  I’ll take them over to Sophie and Steve’s table!” 
He carefully carries his tray over to a shady spot and sits with his friends, who were looking a little sad.

 “Morning fella’s!  Why the long faces?”

“Well, Sam!  I guess you haven’t heard about poor old Saul then?”  Just then Susan comes in and sits down.

“Whats with ol’ Saul then?” she asks.

“It seems he was snipped last night, down near the harbour?’

“Good heavens, How aweful!  He was always so careful and good at staying under cover when he went hunting.  I assume that’s what he was doing?”

“Yep!  He went down for an evening meal, but got caught by a human.”

“What a horrible way to go! “ They all nodded sadly.  “The only plus side is that it allowed some local slugs to go and eat his remains in our customary way to honor our dead.” 

“Humans think that’s disgusting, but it is our tradition.

“People needn’t be so snotty about it; some of them used to be cannibals too!”  Sam reminded them.

“Human’s don’t like us at all do they!  Don’t they realize how much clearing up after them we do?  Who eats their plant debris?”

“They have lots of ways they try to get rid of us!  A lot of slugs were taken last spring.”  said Sophie.  “Christine started the year by carrying a beer can round her yard every morning.  She picked up the slugs with tweezers and dropped them in the can!  She said she hoped they died happy!”

“Well maybe they did!  It would be quick anyway!”  Saul remarked.

“Yes!  But then she said it got too expensive so she tried carrying round a can of water.  She soon found out that we can climb out of that!” 

“Yes!  She got me for a very short while!’ said Steve “then she realized that we were saved by the surface tension of the water so she put some liquid soap in it.  We can’t climb out of that.”

They sipped their coffee thoughtfully.

 Suddenly the door flew open and in lumbered a very large old slug, who ordered his coffee and a piece of Blue Mouse Ears and carried them to a nearby table.

“Mornin’ Sebastian!” they called.

“I see you’ve heard about old Saul then. You guys look so thoughtful!”

“Yes” They responded.

“ Say I overhears some humans talking about asking a spider how to get rid of slugs! “
said Sebastian “What on earth would a spider know?”

“A spider? I can’t imagine!” Said Sue.

“Oh! I know!” Sally chimed in.  “Sebby, are you sure you heard it right?”

“Course I did!” He responded grumpily.

“Where did you hear this?”

“From some young humans walking along by Lyns’s.”

“Are you quite sure they said they would ask a spider?  Could they have said they would ask the web?” asked Sally

“Yeh!  Well!  Same difference!”

“Not really Seb!  The thing humans call ‘the web’ is a thing in a magic box that knows the answer to everything!  I was eating some nice new rose leaves up by Ashley’s window and heard her talking about it  She told her friend that you can go on it and find things out!”

“ Yes I’ve heard about that!” said Steve. “Clever you, Sue, to make the connection!”  He nuzzled Sue slimily!

“Well!  Lets hope this web thing doesn’t know too much about getting rid of us!

Well I guess this web doesn’t know everything!  It also said to put down coffee grounds round the plants!  It seems we aren’t supposed to like the smell of coffee”

The sound of slimy chortling laughter echoed round the garden! “Hey!” said Sal, “ We are Canadian, eh?”

                        Slugs and Snails and Puppydog Tails …              Christine Boardman

We are plagued by slugs most springs in the Basin.  Our cold wet spring suits them admirably, and there is no doubt that they occupy a valuable ecological niche.  If only they didn’t do so in OUR back yards!  Trying to understand their anatomy, physiology and life history and doing the research for this article is my way of trying to learn to like them at least a little bit!

Mollusca gastropoda turnout to be a massive group of critters, ranging from the familiar slugs and snails to squids.


Web Sites used:
Northeastern Naturalist.  Article Terrestrial Snails and Slugs of Maine.
By Scott M. N Martin

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