Ask Dr. Bleedingheart

Bleeding Heart BlossomsDear Dr. Bleedingheart,

I have recently adopted some pet snails.  Now they are having snail babies! The soil in the terrarium has little tiny bugs in it; I think they might have come from a medium-sized stick I put in there. I want to replace the soil to get rid of the bugs, but am a little concerned about moving around or touching the snail eggs. Do you think it would be okay if I took them out really quickly to clean out the terrarium?

Signed,

Living with Snails

Dear Living,

Wow.  And I thought it was weird to keep earthworms as pets.  Are you sure that these snails were, in fact, really up for adoption?  I’d hate to think of their snail families searching for them all night long, leaving “Missing Snail” slime trails on the sidewalk in hopes that someone will see their cry for help and bring their loved ones back.

But let’s assume that your snails are happy in their new environment.  After all, they’ve started a family.  Most snails, as you may know, are hermaphrodites, so as the eggs hatch you’ll get to witness a glorious experiment in communal, gender-free child-rearing.  Sounds like a good topic for a book.

As for the tiny bugs and the cleanliness issue:  These are snails!  They don’t want you to clean up after them. They want to live among dirt and muck and rotting leaves.  The presence of bugs, spiders, worms, and other living creatures will only make them feel more at home.  Will the bugs eat their eggs?  Maybe.  But that’s nature, and snails, after all, are part of nature.  For all we know, the snails are going to eat the eggs.  Let it go.

If you want to clean up after a pet, get a puppy.  But if you’re raising snails, make their environment as earthy as possible.  Embrace the mess.  Sure, the French place snails in sterile containers filled with nothing but cornmeal to clean out the snails’ digestive systems.  But then they eat them!  And that’s no way to treat a pet.

Amy StewartAmy Stewart is the author of From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden, The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms, and the New York Times bestsellers Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers and Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities. Find more from her at Garden Rant.

Submit your own horticultural question to Dr. Bleedingheart by emailing it to: katie [at] algonquin [dot] com

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