Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Snails: Then and Now

When I was a little girl, I loved snails.

I still do, in fact. If I see a snail on the sidewalk, I have to "rescue" it. That means I pick it up and move it to what looked to be it's destination on the other side. My heart simply breaks a little more every time I hear the "crunch" of a snail dying under someone's shoe, so I can't just walk by and do nothing.

Poor little things. They can only go so fast!

Perhaps the rescuing comes from wanting redemption for the crimes I committed against the snail population when I was about 4 years old. There was a time or two when I was young, when I would wait until the rain stopped to go outside and "collect" snails. My mom lovingly handed me a giant ziplock bag, and I went on my merry way to the front yard and picked up every single snail in sight and "collected" them in my bag. I zipped the bag shut and watched them for awhile. Pretty soon it was dinner time, and dearest mom convinced me that the snails really needed to stay outside on the porch, in the bag.

I'd get up the next morning and find that my snails had turned into Snail Soup. Of course, depriving 25 snails of oxygen would most definitely be the reason they were all dead, but that didn't sink in until the second time I killed an entire community. I remember asking Mom what happened to the snails in my bag, but she never gave me a clear answer.

Sneaky lady!!! That's one way to get the snails out of your garden, I guess. I was morally opposed to helping Grandma sprinkle salt on the poor things - although before you realize you're slowly killing them it's kind of fun to watch them bubble and fizz. And while throwing the snails into the street with all my might with dear old Dad was pretty fun, I realized that was in an effort to kill the things, too. Can't a girl (and a snail) catch break?? Does it always have to be about murder?!

As I grew older and wiser, I collected them, took them to Grandma's backyard and raced them on her patio. That way, they could race, and go free. Knowing Grandma, however, there isn't a doubt in my mind that she salted them all when I wasn't looking.

(When I can get a scanned copy of the picture of me racing the snails, I'll put it in right here!)

Moving to Norway, the snail and slug population quite honestly amazes and disgusts me. Every so often you find the "normal" snail:

I found one like this sitting on the passenger window of our car a few weeks ago when we were on our way to Ikea. It rode with us the entire way (maybe 20 minutes), wandered around the window and door during the journey, waited for us in the parking lot, and rode all the way back home where I put it back safely in the bush it emerged from. I like these kinds of snails and found great joy in watching it's tentacles almost literally flop in the wind on the highway. I can't imagine what that could have felt like. 

This, however, is what I constantly see walking around in Bergen: 

Svartskogsnegl - Black slug

They are EVERYWHERE! I can't tell you how many times I've made Stian stop while we were on a walk to tell me about these. What intrigues me (and also happens to disgust me) is how huge they are! Yuck.

I see these quite often, too! 
The snails here come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Since it's often pretty wet from the rain in Bergen, there's very often snails and slugs out and about. 

This next one is a leopard snail (I don't know why these are called "snails" when they have no shell and they are actually slugs, but I'm guessing that since Norwegian is a word poor language, they use the same word to describe both things. Literally translated, the word for slug is "forest snail" -skogsnegl).

Legend has it (when I say "legend has it", I really mean this is what Stian has told me and I know nothing about it) that this particular snail (slug!) eats other snails/slugs. It's a cannibal! Apparently they're very good for the garden.

So, Grandma, we don't need to salt this one to death; Mom, we don't need to suffocate this kind; and Dad, we don't need to throw it into the street to be at the mercy of gravity and cars. 

The difference? These gross me out. I would never rescue something like this. If I saw it in the middle of the sidewalk, I wouldn't even wish the poor sucker luck, but rather hope it or something like it doesn't end up on the bottom of my boot...someone else's boot, maybe, but not mine. 

Slugs, especially Norwegian slugs, give me the heebeejeebies. 

Snails, real snails, the kind with the shell, always have a special place in my childhood heart. 


  1. Hi, Alyssa!
    When I was in Norway this summer, we took the Atlantic Roadway near Alesund...we stopped to take pictures of the famous bridge on the Roadway and the black slug made an appearance....and yes, it gave me the heebeejeebies! This one was about 3-4 inches long! Yikes!
    Not a Snail-Lover,
    Kristi Kahl Edwards

  2. i love snails too! i have fond memories of putting mine in shoe boxes with leaves and then sneaking them into the house only to check the box a few hours later and find them gone! woops

    legend has it (aka TP told me) that the black slugs only arrived in norway like ten years ago and proceeded to kill and eat the majority of the brown slugs ick!

  3. I must defend myself here. Grandma actually gave you the plastic bags to collect snails at her house. After you played with them - snail races and all - she sent you home with the bag full of snails. I am guilty of making sure that the zipper on the bag was completely closed and I did not allow you to bring them in the house. While I don't like crunching them under my shoe or throwing them in the street, I was not dismayed to find snail soup in the plastic bag in the morning. Those Norwegian snails/slugs are making my skin crawl, however.

  4. Actually, the black snails have been here for as long as I can remember (30ish years) and are as far as I know native to Norway.
    They also don't cause too much havoc, the brown ones however, breed like crazy, and eat all the stuff we want to keep, they are generally called Iberia snails here (as far as I know, they are from Spain and came with imported plants and I've only heard about them over the last 10-15 years). The spotted leopard snail (or I think that's it's name at least) is even newer, at least I saw my first one only a few years ago and didn't read anything until last year when I read that they tend to eat weeds we don't care about, and the brown snails (don't know if they eat the black or other ones). I'm sure some wikipedia research could get more accurate info but making dinner at the moment so just wrote down what I know (hopefully it's at least somewhat accurate)

  5. Hah. I can see how you like snails, they're way cuter. Does anyone think slugs are cute? I think not.
    Funny, also that I just posted about ants! (http://withoutcomplexities.blogspot.com/2011/09/attack-of-ants.html)

  6. Howdy, thought I'd let you know anout our Americans in Bergen group. I was searching snails and found your blog, and saw your story was much like mine. Anyway, there are about 50 of us in the group, and we discover more "uncontacted" 'mericans all the time. The group is closed, but I can get you added if you are interested... lemme know! Check your facebook...