I’ve never been one to dwell on failure. Ever the optimist I’ve continued to sow French beans since June in the hope that we’d get a dry spell and therefore fewer molluscs to munch on their tender young shoots. Although I’ve managed to reduce slug numbers in my garden using Nemaslug, the snails have just laughed in my face at copper tape and beer traps, as defeated, the French beans have gone the way of the runner beans, spinach, rocket and courgettes, all reduced to leafless stalks. Apart from carrots which the snails don’t seem to fancy much, the only veggies growing in my garden are the ones hermetically sealed inside a cold frame and I don’t think there will be much of a harvest there as everything is fighting for space with the tomatoes whose home it was originally meant to be. Anything I get from it to eat however is an improvement on the quince, plum and damson trees which all scored a big fat zero for fruit due I’m sure to the cold wet weather and lack of pollinators when they were flowering. But am I down hearted ? No of course not, I can’t do anything about the weather and I won’t poison the snails with pellets, if they’re eaten by a bird then that will be poisoned in turn, so I just collect them and put them out in the open for any local thrushes which might have escaped such a deadly fate and in doing so I’ve discovered that not all snails are the villains I previously thought them to be. The common garden snails Helix aspersa, are the ones which I find by the dozen enjoying their vegetable dinner during my torch lit bed time patrols, but I never see any of the smaller banded snails then, Cepaea nemoralis and Cepaea hortensis. I often spot these hiding under mint leaves or clinging to the stems of grasses during the day and in taking more of an interest and looking at them more closely I’ve found them to be really quite beautiful. No two are the same and even in my small garden there is a wide variety in their markings. Some are very strongly striped with thick bands of dark brown, some with finer stripes and some so light in colour that they’re almost translucent. Looking for information about them online, I’ve found that the variations in stripes and colours are due to responses to location, climate and the big reduction in the numbers of predators, namely thrushes (back to the reason I don’t use slug pellets). In short this is evolution taking place in my garden and now I know they’re not responsible for devastating my beans I’m very happy to leave these little snails alone and allow them to evolve at their own very steady pace.
For more information about banded snails go to