Scientists urge gardeners to throw snails away

It’s a common problem during growing season, snails and slugs nibbling at the leaves of the green shoots of spring.

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It’s a common problem during growing season, snails and slugs nibbling at the leaves of the green shoots of spring.

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It usually leads to the mollusks finding themselves garden enemy number one and all kinds of measures taken to kill them off.

But now Scientists from two English universities have discovered a solution that is less harmful for the shelled sliders. 

Research shows that bowling the snail a cricket-pitch length from any prized plants will prevent the snails from returning for a second helping.

Research in the past has shown that snails will often return to where they were found if they are moved five metres away. The rate of return decreases as the distance increases, with 20 metres seeming to be the limit of the snail’s range.

The scientists say that gardeners could avoid using deadly methods and instead better protect their plants using “a stronger throwing arm or mechanically-assisted lobbing.”

Professor David Dunstan of Queen Mary University in London said, “Gardeners should be setting out to minimise the damage done by snails, which our results showed could be quickly achieved by simply removing the snails over 20 metres away.

“A recent poll by the Royal Horticultural Society showed that one in five gardeners in the UK have thrown snails into their neighbours’ gardens.

“Whilst our study shows that this may be more beneficial than actually killing them, we believe the gardening community would benefit as a whole by removing the snails to a convenient wasteland rather than passing the burden onto their neighbours.”

Dr Dave Hodgson from the University of Exeter and Professor David Dunstan of Queen Mary University in London independently carried out research into snails’ journey habits.

Dr Hodgson began his work in 2010 with amateur scientist Ruth Brookes. The pair discovering that snails had a homing instinct.

Prof Dunstan began with his research in 2001. He conducted an experiment in which snails found in a small suburban garden were marked and thrown five metres over a brick wall and into wasteland.

Each time they returned they were given another mark on their shell and chucked back into the wasteland

Plants such as hostas, a favourite of snails, thrived under the experiment, suggesting it was kept the number of snails down.

The study found that virtually none of the snails that were taken further away returned to the garden.

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Image: Getty