Adventures in Ethics and Science

This morning was dry and cool and overcast, so the pickings were slim.

I went right to the places where gastropods have been found hiding on mornings like this and came up empty.

Actually, since I cleared some weeds (and some piles of previously whacked weeds and tall grass) yesterday, I figured that maybe there were just fewer hiding places left. It’s even possible that when the piles of weeds and tall grass went into the green bin to go to the municipal composting, some slugs and snails went with their hiding places to be composted.

So, despite the lack of snails and slugs to pick, I felt like I was making some progress.

Then I checked my email.

Friend of the blog Pinko Punko sent me a plot of the snail and slug totals from the first 20 days of the eradication project.


The message that accompanied this plot:

Regression of snail/slug numbers suggests slugs may be infinite, snails finite.

Sigh. Just call me Sisyphus.


  1. #1 Pinko Punko
    May 29, 2009

    Keep posting the numbers! Maybe you will turn the corner!

    I dreamt about cleaning snails out of an aquarium last night. This blog is pervasive.

  2. #2 blf
    May 30, 2009

    Dr Sisyphus,

    Whilst rolling a boulder into your garden may squish a few gastropods, so would tap-dancing naked on the lawn. Neither, however, is an effective gastropod control technique. Admittedly, both techniques are probably good exercise. And naked tap-dancing is less likely to also squish whatever remains of your garden. Nonetheless, neither is too effective against gastropods. I suggest finding another control technique.

  3. #3 leigh
    May 30, 2009

    Once upon a time a tiny snail came out of the faucet of a lab sink. I decided not to kill it, since there was another sink nearby. Then there were several tiny snails – dunno if the original one was pregnant or favored virgin birth. I kept the sink wet for them. The population grew, not exponentially but pretty rapidly (I made a running census.) Presumably they were feeding on an otherwise undetected biofilm. After a while there were more snails than unoccupied space; by this time the census was by estimation. Then the population crashed to extinction – not suddenly, but rapidly. Etiology unknown; mebbe they ran out of delicious biofilm, or mebbe the snails selected the biofilm into something too distasteful. Or mebbe something else.

    This suggests two strategies:
    1) remove all greenery except the garden, leaving bare ground that could even be paved over.
    2) find out what, if anything, the local gastropodians won’t eat and replace the extraneous greenery with that.

    That either strategy may cure the disease but kill the patient just provides something to evaluate ethically.

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