All about snails!
The wetter weather means we’re seeing more slugs and snails out and about. While these gastrpods are mostly detested by gardeners for their crop-munching ways, they are a great way for children to get up close to wildlife and learn more about our natural world.
Here are some fun snail facts to share with children, plus some snail-based activities you can enjoy in the damp weather!
They’ve been around for a long time
Snails’ ancestors were one of the earliest types of animals on earth. They have been around for 500 million years – that’s 250 million years before the first dinosaurs!
There are lots of types
There are thousands of snail species, living in all sorts of environments: land, sea and freshwater. They like damp conditions and in dry conditions garden snails can seal the entrance to their shell and survive for months.
They like to eat our food
Farmers and gardeners aren’t fans of garden snails, as they love chomping through the stems and leaves of crops such as lettuce, cucumber and cabbage. On the other hand, plenty of creatures eat snails, such as birds, toads and hedgehogs so they play an important part in the ecosystem. And even humans eat snails: they are considered a delicacy in many countries!
Beware of the snail!
Did you know land snails have rows of tiny teeth! But most smaller land snails are herbivores (plant-eaters). The ones to look out for are cone snails, found in the sea. They are venomous, and some have poison that can kill humans! You definitely won’t find them in your back garden or park though.
A protected pest
One variety of snail in the UK, the Roman Snail, is a protected species in England. It was introduced to the UK by the Romans, and loves chomping through vegetables. It is illegal to kill, injure, collect or sell these snails.
So how can you have fun with snails, while ensuring the snails stay happy too?
Here are some ideas for getting to know these fascinating creatures:
Go on a snail walk
Snails are easiest to spot during and after rainfall. So grab your wellies, splash in puddles and see how many snails you can count.
Snails are one of the slowest creatures on Earth. Taking care not to hurt or drop the snails, you can see them in action! Line up some snails at the end of a piece of A4 paper, and see which is the first to reach the other end (and which just decide to do their own thing!).
Track snail trails
Early in the morning, see if you can spot where snails have been by following their trails over walls and pavements. Snails create mucous (a slimy substance) to help them move more easily, and often leave tracks behind them. You could try leaving a piece of paper outside overnight, weighed down by stones, and see if you can capture any snail tracks.
Create snail shell art
Take a look at the intricate designs on snails’ shells, then when you get home, draw a big snail and create your own. Matisse, a famous French artist created a picture called ‘The Snail’ in 1953. You can have a go at making your own version by following this guide from The Tate.
We hope you have fun snail-spotting this week! Be prepared for the weather with our 100% waterproof rainwear!