Are our friends growing paper bags? (If so, could some clever grafting set them up so they could grow the lunches right in the bags?)
Dr. Free-Ride: Ooh, I wish these snails would stop munching my delicate plants! I'd really have no problem with them if they ate the weeds instead.
Elder offspring: It's like the weeds are protecting themselves.
Dr. Free-Ride: Yes, by being tough or spiky or yucky tasting.
Elder offspring: Hey, I read about a snail called the wolf snail that eats other snails.
Dr. Free-Ride: Does it also eat tender garden plants?
Elder offspring: I think they just eat other snails. They live in the Southeast U.S. We should get some.
Dr. Free-Ride: Gosh, I don't know. When you introduce a new organism to an ecosystem, sometimes unpredictable things happen. I worry a little that a newly introduced carnivorous snail might end up eating some useful critter.
Elder offspring: Hmm.
Dr. Free-Ride: Or some creature might end up eating the wolf snails and get sick.
Elder offspring: Some creature might end up eating the wolf snails, think they're delicious, and breed and breed -- until there are too many of them!
Dr. Free-Ride: It's hard to know ahead of time what a new organism will do in an ecosystem, and sometimes it's hard to undo it if the effect isn't one you like.
Elder offspring: Oh. Like the snails that eat our garden now?
Dr. Free-Ride: Yeah, Uncle Fishy says the snails that are munching our tender plants are the descendants of culinary snails some guy from France brought out to California a long time ago to raise for escargot.
Elder offspring: And they escaped!
Dr. Free-Ride: I suppose that would make them "freedom molluscs".
* * * * *
While eating our dinner on the patio to escape the heat that had collected in the house during the day, the Free-Ride family noticed a multitude of ants trying to share the cooler temperatures and our dinner.
Elder offspring: We need something that would eat the ants but not our dinner.
Dr. Free-Ride: Giant anteaters!
Elder offspring: A nice ant-eating spider would work, too.
Dr. Free-Ride: Nah, we don't have that kind of time. The spider needs to get a web going first. Meanwhile, our food is getting anty.
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: How about some nice pitcher plants?
Elder offspring: Or I could bring out the Venus flytrap.
Dr. Free-Ride: Those still depend on the ants getting to the traps or the pitchers. I think we need pest control that goes straight to the pest -- something that will hoover up the ants before they get to our dinner plates.
Elder offspring: OK, but you know you're not going to be able to actually get giant anteaters for the back yard, right? Our ideas are more realistic.
The "paper bag tree" pictured at the top of the post is, of course, an apple tree whose apples were bagged early to present a physical barrier against incursions by coddling moth caterpillars. Early reports from the field indicate the bags to be more successful than the approach the Free-Ride family tried this year (banding the apple tree trunk with tanglefoot and hanging pheromone-baited sticky-traps in the branches).
Here's an interesting ethical situation in the news:
A newsreader who told viewers that the mayor of Los Angeles was separating from his wife, but failed to inform them that she had been having an affair with him, has been placed on leave while the station investigates if she has breached journalistic ethics.
Gorgeous snail art by your sprogs! Good luck with the apples, and thanks for the Friday sprog fix. I have become an addict . . . :)
The idea of snails escaping* brings some interesting questions to mind, not the least of which have to do with the obvious incompetence of the guards.
Maybe our friend Novella can come over to help with the snails.
The packages that tanglefoot comes in, would they be tanglefoot bags?
For snails and slugs, try Sluggo. It is non toxic to children and pets. I found that by applying it regularly, it keeps the snails and slugs away. If you have potted plants, put copper stripping around the upper edge of the pot. This will keep the snails and slugs away.
Back in my gardening days, the organic snail remedy frequently recommended was to set a dish in the ground and fill it with beer. Supposedly, snails are attracted by the scent and drink themselves to death. Another organic solution is a duck or a goose. Good overview here.
Opossums are a great snail solution. There's a family of them living in the vacant lot next door and we haven't seen a snail in a couple of years now.
However, if you do manage to introduce an opossum family to the neighborhood, do train the sprogs to close the screen doors. I can tell you from experience that baby opossums can get in through a 2 inch gap, and it's quite "exciting" when one unexpectedly wanders across the living room on an otherwise quiet evening.