Adventures in Ethics and Science

The morning was dry, but the skies were not overcast, and I think the air temperature was a bit warmer than yesterday morning.

That, plus the two rainfalls earlier this week, seems to have changed things up.

Because today, there were babies.

Most of them were very well hidden — almost undetectable unless your eye has been trained by twenty-odd days of patrolling for gastropods. But there they were near the base of the rosemary, on the tiny stems of the lemon thyme, on the slender leaves on the society garlic, looking almost like grains of sand or tiny blobs of animal poo: tiny snails and slugs that I suspect hatched in response to the downpours a few days ago.

There were also some more mature specimens. Rather than being on the periphery of the yard, most of them were sheltering well underneath the plants on which I found them. I suspect they may have been hiding in underground lairs before coming up to stem and leaf level.

I’m thinking I need to get a thermometer set up outside so I can track the temperature during each foray and see whether there’s any correlation with gastropod numbers. Also, I’m tempted to bring out a scale so I can weigh the Soapy Bucket of Merciful Deliverance before and after patrol; possibly the average weight per gastropod taken will give some useful insight to the effect I’m having on the local population’s reproductive prospects.

Today’s take: 43 slugs and 27 snails.

Comments

  1. #1 Art
    June 5, 2009

    I suspect that looking at the Relative Humidity, RH, time-line, possibly tossing in a high/low limit window on temperature, may get you a good correlation to numbers of slugs and snails. These figures may be available through your local weather service.

    Many areas have a good number of amateur-run weather stations that link to various sites. These tend to be more attuned to local conditions.

    A fairly decent site is:
    http://www.wunderground.com/
    There are others you may like more. Follow the links to zoom into your locality and to find any local amateur stations that report to the system.

    You could also resort to using a sling psychrometer yourself. What the neighbors say about the ‘crazy lady swinging a ‘club’ over her head at odd hours’ just adds to the mystique.

  2. #2 Wendy
    June 5, 2009

    I had a thought in reading this entry, and hopefully it’s not something you’ve covered before, or if you have covered it, perhaps this is at least a new idea (I haven’t read all the previous entries; I wasn’t keeping up with much of anything online in the weeks before and including finals :D).

    I’m wondering what you’re doing with all the slugs and snails you’re removing from the garden. One thing you might consider is donating them to a wildlife rehabilitation center. I have it on good authority that many wild animals – particularly raccoons and opossums – LOVE snails. I know this because I volunteer at the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, and one of our volunteers brings in all the snails from her garden, and the animals eat them like candy. :) If this sounds like something that might be of interest, here’s a link with the contact information for some wildlife rehab centers in California – hopefully one of the South Bay ones will be convenient for you, and will be happy to take the snails off of your hands:

    http://www.parentspress.com/wildliferehab.html

    Again, I apologize if you’ve already discussed how you’re disposing of the snails, but I thought this was an idea at least worth mentioning. :)

  3. #3 blf
    June 6, 2009

    Since the snails show up after it rains, it’s obvious the rain is airdropping a fresh supply of snails. I had confirmation of this Theory of Snail Rain this morning: It rained last night. This morning I go out onto the porch and—CRUNCH!—I step on a (now rather ex-)snail. That’s one. Now watching where I’m stepping, I spot an even bigger snail. Two. Watching it slime (rather quickly—your selection for speed seems to be working) across the porch, I spot a third tiny snail. Three. More than coincidence. Q.E.D. It rains snails.