Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Growing Them Big Down Under

The giant Powelliphanta looks beautiful sliding along the mesic forest floor but this rare albino snail is not as gentle as its vegetarian American cousins. The New Zealand native mollusk is carnivorous, feasting on worms, grubs, and other creatures that are in the snail's path.  At maturity, a 20 year old snail can reach the size of a man's fist.  This photographs shows a Powelliphanta (Powell elephant?) approximately ten years old.

The ugly creature above is called a Giant Weta. I'm grateful they are found only on the Great Barrier Island as they are one of the largest insects on record and a good example of island gigantism . Finding this in my garden would spoil my day.

Do you have signs of pesky snails in your garden?  Make sure you're not irrigating too much or too often, keeping your landscape wet. Snails are Mother Nature's decomposers, digesting fungi and decaying plant material. They  like moist soils with lots of leaf litter.  Drying your garden beds out, removing decomposing foliage, letting the sun in, and using a product with iron phosphate works to help reduce snail population. Be careful using baits with metaldehyde around children and pets. Using beer may be organic, but is expensive, and a good waste of beer. (Beer is also not good for pets and children.)

There is one Florida native snail that is good for your garden:  the Rosy Wolf Snail, Euglandia rosea.  These predators feed on other snails and keep other snail populations down. 

The Living World of Mollusks describes rosy wolf snail's behavior:
In the case of the wolf snail, the lips are used to follow the prey's scent along its slime trace. Which a wolf snail does, like a wolf follows the scent of its prey, hence the snail's name. Only in the case of the wolf snail, it is more precisely the taste, not the scent, which it follows.

From another snail's slime trace the wolf snail also gains information on whether the snail is a potential meal rather than a fellow wolf snail. Which basically makes not much of a difference, as wolf snails also are cannibals.

On pursuit of its prey the wolf snail does not move at a proverbial snail's pace, but at double or triple that speed. It follows its prey up trees and even for certain distances under water
For more information and identification of snails:

Florida Tree Snails

Get Savvy About Snails

Florida Garden Snails

Snails and Slugs

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