Ahgg, the hermaphrodites are back. I didn’t miss them a bit, they were gone all summer and now that it has begun raining they’ve emerged from their hiding places and are crawling all my garden. Last night I walked outdoors barefooted and stepped on one. Yeech, I can still feel the slime between my toes.
I am of course referring to snails and slugs. Imagine the European Brown snail was brought to California over a hundred years ago for food. For food! Wasn’t there enough to eat here. And its cohort, the gray slug, probably came over accidentally in some plant material around the same time. They’ve been thriving here ever since.
As I said they are hermaphrodites, that is they have both male and female sexual parts in one animal. Now what is the advantage of being hermaphroditic? I know what you are thinking╔ you will always have a date on Saturday night. Wrong. Animals shouldn’t self-fertilize. That’s called inbreeding and you will end up with a bunch of free-bleeding, idiot snails. That’s what happened to the Kings and Queen of Europe many years ago. But for slow moving animals there is a real advantage to being hermaphroditic. How many snails do you think another snail is going to meet in one night? Not many, but every one is always the right one.
I have a rightful prejudice against these exotic, imported animals that disrupt local ecosystems. But we do have a native, American slug╔ the Banana Slug. Now this critter has been in North America for millions of years, it belongs here.
I tip my hat to the students at UC Santa Cruz who made the Banana Slug their school’s mascot. Go Slugs. But as for those unwanted European slime bags I recommend pamphlet #2222 entitled “Snails as Food, Escargot”. It’s available from your county agricultural extension agent. It tells you have to purge those pesky snails and make them edible and how to cook them. I recommends lotsa of garlic butter, every thing tastes good in garlic butter. I guess it would work for the slugs too. Cause if these guy/gals are going to eat your garden, you might as well jump into the food chain and eat the eaters.
This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.