It goes by many names and freaks people out in just as many ways!
The humble white garden snail (aka: Theba Pisana) is an invasive snail species that is endemic to the Mediterranean, but which has made itself at home in countries all across the globe. From Australia to South Africa, this little creature is a ‘globe trotting’ professional!
I’m sure West Coast locals and visitors alike have wondered about these curious little snails that seem to explode in their thousands during the spring season and cluster in big white mounds during the summer. Well, I was also very interested, so I began to dig around online in order to discover more about them.
Theba Pisana has a variety of shell colours, ranging from pale yellows to white with light brown spiral markings. Their shells grow to about an average diameter of 15mm, which is actually quite small in comparison to many of our local snail species. During the summer months, or extremely hot weather, Theba Pisana’s shell becomes bone white and they appear to be dead, but they are far from it! The reason for this transformation is actually a process called aestivation, which is a form of ‘physical stasis’, which is similar to when mammals enter a state of hibernation. Theba Pisana undergoes this process in order to survive the damaging effects of severe heat levels, which would otherwise dry them out completely and kill them. Rather a clever little trick I thought! They seem to move away from the baking hot earth and start to climb any object possible in order to minimize their exposure.
When white garden snails climb together and enter a state of aestivation they can sometimes completely encrust an object – this gives my wife a serious case of the ‘hebejebes’. I suppose it is a little weird looking, but hey I think it’s pretty interesting natural phenomenon. Many of these snails aren’t so lucky and never make it to the safety of an aestivation cluster group. Instead they end up being desiccated in massive numbers in the super hot summer sand – this is when you begin to see veritable best online casino ‘shell carpets’ on the paths leading down to the beach…again, charming!
I think the saddest thing for me is the fact that they are an invasive species to our area and have the ability to cause considerable damage to vegetation. This is easy to imagine, especially when you considering that they appear in huge numbers and have a very ‘thorough eating ethic’. This has lead to wide spread concern in the Western Cape since the snails have targeted our fynbos biome. Considering the threat I’m sure somebody, somewhere, is making a plan on how to preserve our beautiful flora from ‘mass snail digestion’. It seems that they were introduced to South Africa as long ago as 1880. In view of the fact that they have been here for so long, why have they only recently become a problem? Also, why hasn’t something been done to remove them already? There are plenty of questions that need answering.
It is very sad to see an invasive species like this ravaging our local plant life, especially considering how cute they are! Yes, yes I just called them “cute”. Honestly I love the patterns on their shells and took quite a few snaps of them this season. While they may very well be aesthetically pleasing little creeps, they are still an issue that must be tackled sooner rather than later. In the United States this snail has been given full ‘national quarantine significance’. Maybe we should be doing the same!
Well, I hope that shed some light on these curious little snails and of course the issue of their impact on our environment.
If you have any questions please drop me a comment!