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antennae

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Breakfast in bed for the molluscs

muller 1

I know it's Saturday morning and time for breakfast in bed for us Monday to Friday workers, but just look at this lazy creature who can't be bothered to stretch out from under the duvet. He hasn't even got his antennae fully extended - just peeping to see where the food is and trying to slide towards it without using too much energy.

We've got two different strains of the same species of snail. We call them mullers and maximas. The little chap in that first picture is a muller looking like the snails you might find in the garden but with a white mantle and pale body:

muller 2

This is what Helix aspersa muller looks like from underneath. The mantle is the very important organ which appears like a rim round the body. It secretes the shell and lines the inside of the shell.

Contrast that with this maxima:

maxima

This one is Helix aspersa maxima which has a black mantle. This snail is hibernating so there is a white rim but it is the edge of the shell not the mantle.

Both maxima and muller are for sale in the online shop.

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Learning about living things #crowdfunding

On Thursday we were invited in to Wickhambreaux primary school to the after school young gardeners club for a Meet the Snails event.

School Video.Still008

We took a mini farm with some baby snails and some big ones too so the children could see how they grew. One of the girls ran her finger round the spiral shell and told me how the shell grows as the snail gets bigger.

School Video.Still022

The excitement of the children is always infectious on these occasions and this was no exception. They were amazed at how hard the shell was when the babies first hatch and how fast they move when they can smell food. The children were mostly six or seven and they were very knowledgeable about snails already but did enjoy feeling the radula in the snail's mouth gently rasp their fingers. It is difficult to explain in words how the snail eats but when you can feel it with your fingers it all makes sense. We sprinkled some dry snail food onto the inside of the mini farm bell too so they could see the snail opening its mouth to show the black radula inside and scrape the food off the surface.

The children already knew that snails laid eggs but they didn't know how many one snail could lay so it was good to be able to show them a clutch that were laid the previous week.

It's their long antennae that always fascinate me - they way they wave about in all directions. Because our eyes both normally point the same way so we can focus on an object, it is difficult to imagine what it's like to have eyes that just rove about randomly!

All too soon it was time to go for the molluscs and me so we said goodbye and left them to tend their gardens.

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Mini Snail Farm Trail: support for schools

Mini snail farm trail is open for business and we need you to visit the campaign site, watch the fantastic video with all those cute baby snails in it and make a donation. It doesn't have to be much. If everyone gave £10 we would soon reach our target. Our modest aim is to give free mini snail farms to 50 selected schools.

mini farm Kerry smaller

The mini snail farm is an invaluable resource in a classroom because the children learn so much from it. You get 6 baby snails just a few millimetres in length but very active, curious about their environment and fun to watch. The children's attention will be immediately engaged and they will be keen to look after them. The housing, bedding and some food are included in the parcel along with instructions on how to look after the snails. The children will be able to watch how the snails use their antennae to explore their surroundings. As they glide across the surface of the bell they will be able to watch the muscles ripple along the foot and see their mouths when they eat.

Just imagine yourself into their shoes and try to remember how exciting such discoveries could be when you were their age. Dig deep into your pockets and give generously. Get a mini farm for the children in your life.

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