The Climbing Snails: What Happens Next?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday, when I posted about the adventuresome snails on Wildlife Wednesday, I had no idea my little mystery would attract such strong “requests” for knowing what happened to the little guys. So, never one to ignore the questions of the masses, I did some investigating this morning.

The Internet can be an amazing place, with access to all kinds of information. Of course, we never know for sure the accuracy of some of that information, but I thought I’d share some of my “findings” with you. While these snippets won’t necessarily solve the mystery of the two snails in yesterday’s post, we can at least hypothesize about what happened after that morning on the wall.

I found this at Yahoo! Answers

Someone asks:

I see the shells of dead snails stuck all over the outside of buildings. Don’t understand why they just stay there and dry up. Maybe they can’t climb in a downwards direction?

One answer, and not a very encouraging one:

It happens when they’re affected by a dangerous chemical or infection in the area. As their tissues go into necrosis, they give off a distinctive (to other snails, at least) scent, which warns others of danger in the area. A snail that is about to die will climb as high as he can, so that the scent spreads farther.

At Intelligent Answers, I found this “conversation”:

P-Kasso2 asks:

Why are snails climbing my wall?
These snails seem to know where they are going and have now reached
6 or 7 feet off the ground. Only another 3 feet to go.

They have only just started doing this.

They have all been quite happy toddling around at ground level during
the summer but now they have taken to abseiling en masse.

Now it is up up and away.

Has this something to with hibernation? Is it a mass break-out attempt?

But why 7 feet up a wall? What is going on?

Wumpus responds, but only to add to the mystery:

I don’t know what the reason is, but I noticed a snail well up the wall at a mate’s house the other night. A good 8 feet off the floor.

The surprising thing is that the snail trail indicated that it was actually on its way back down, having been for a little saunter across his roof.

AtMyWitzEnd offers an explanation:

Snails do actually migrate before and after “hibernation” … actually aestivation, because they become inactive in dry conditions and not cold conditions. They just seal up their shell and wait out dry periods, which include the winter in the UK. According to the book “Behavioural Rhythms of Land Snails in the Field” (every home should have a copy), they migrate between three and a half and six miles (is it worth the effort??). It says the difference depends on how wet it is as they can travel 24 hours in wet conditions but have to hide up during the day when it is dry … and it depends on how many houses are in their way I guess!

I suspect your wall is just in their planned path, PK. Like the Wumpus house, they will be over the top and down the other side and on their way.

ME: Of course, then he has to pull out the bad news:

ME:  Thanks, AtMyWitzEnd, for ruining my hopes. I couldn’t look, but I included the link for those of you with stronger constitution.)

Wumpus again:

Because it’s there….

As a follow-on from this question, I noticed another snail quite a long way up the wall of one of the buildings at work.

Thing is, said building is 3 storeys high.

Is this the Chris Bonnington of the snail world, or suicidally optimistic, or just plain stupid?

From experience, snails have no problems finding my cabbages, so why does a large building confuse them so?

Back from PKasso2

To answer Wumpus first…my snails were definitely heading upwards but have now stopped and gone into Park mode.

To touch on Witz’s point about migrating snails…I recall reading yonks ago that if you lob snails over the wall into the neighbour’s garden, the snails just find their way back. Doncha just love our gastropod pals!

It takes them a while but they do seem to have a scientifically proven homing instinct.

None of which explains Witz’s point about snail’s migrating.

Where do they migrate to? And why should they want to migrate from a spot where they have been happily munching my lettuces all bliddy summer?

Or is the some legendary Snail Burial Ground they are all heading for?



I fear we may have raised more questions than we answered. Of course, Evil Squirrel’s response to yesterday’s post has merit.

Someone must have mentioned escargot, so they bolted up the wall to flee!

 For some interesting photos of snails climbing trees and additional theories, you can check out this post. It’s pretty cool!

If you still have more questions, post them below. Or if you have additional theories or want to vote for one of the theories proposed, go for it.  🙂