Stanhope, Weardale: This cumulative mollusc hibernation wake up in ours garden after ~ the an initial frosts, when old clay flower pots behind the greenhouse become packed v snails


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I most likely wouldn’t have noticed the mollusc hibernaculum if mine bootlace hadn’t come undone. Crouching under to shelter from the wind behind a dry-stone wall while ns retied it, I discovered scores that overwintering garden snails (Cornu aspersum), wedged in the crevices in between the rocks.

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Each snail was glued come the sandstone by its epiphragm, a layer of coagulation mucus, sealing it within its helical shell for the winter, if its line barely ticked over. The innermost pets were lodged deep in the wall, with no room to manoeuvre, so when spring’s wake-up arrives it will certainly surely be a situation of an initial in, last out.

This cumulative mollusc hibernation wake up in our garden ~ the first frosts, as soon as old clay flower pots behind the greenhouse become packed through snails. In summer these gastropods roam in ~ night and have a homing instinct towards short-term daytime shelters at dawn, however perhaps, in winter, over there is some sort of chemical aggregation signal that provides them huddle together in such numbers. It’s absolutely a convenience once it involves reducing the snail populace to controllable proportions, before they have actually a chance to consume too many tender young seedlings in spring.


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After trading sperm, both hermaphrodite snail partners deserve to lay eggs. Photograph: Phil GatesOver two decades of winters, we have to have collected and relocated hundreds of these sleeping molluscs to a local woodland, but the garden snail populace at the finish of each year seems undiminished. It is probably due to the effectiveness of snail sex.

None is specifically male, merely serving to donate genes. They are all hermaphrodite and, after common exchange that sperm, both partners have the right to lay as much as 80 eggs, six times throughout the summer. Our yearly search and also relocation practice is one environmentally friendly defence for the vegetable garden, without resorting come agrochemical warfare.

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Come April, the fads that appear on the lower panes the glass in the greenhouse provide early warning of sleeping snails that we didn’t find. Each offers its radula, a dart-shaped tongue coated in chitinous teeth, come rasp turn off the bright green algae, moving its head from next to side together it glides throughout the glass. The etched feeding trails of dart-shaped tongue impressions produce an summary pattern of remarkable beauty.


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Patterns produced by snail tongues, rasping algae from the surface ar of greenhouse glass. Photograph: Phil Gates

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