Monday, 24 June 2013

Snail, snail go away, and never come any other day!

"On grass, it can be the small things that decide a match." Caroline Wozniacki was of course, talking about tennis, but she could also be talking about snails, for all we know. As a wildlife biologist, it always amazes me how something so small could wreak such havoc-- take viruses for example. I've seen what these pesky little (since they don't really grow as big in the Philippines) animals can do-- conspicuous bald patches in the vast expanse of rice fields in northern Luzon, and a substantial reduction in potential yield for our farmer-collaborators in Laguna.

It is in this vein that our team, The Dark Knight Rices set off on our anti-GAS (golden apple snail) mission-- two days before we transplanted, and 10 days prior to second picking. Because it is our first time (and we were excited), we were at our plot by 6:30 in the morning of the 7th of June. It was a crisp sunny day, and our field was flooded but the water was clear-- perfect for picking snails.

It was of course, never without mishaps. I lost footing, and my bottom met the wet mud... I was never well-coordinated to begin with. So much for the paddy boots!

Thanks to the clear water, and the papaya leaves we used as bait, we were able to collect quite a bit of snails. Because Alex' lecture about aestivation (it's like hibernation, only that it's done during high temperatures and dry conditions) is still vivid, we opted to kill the snails by, uhm, running them over with the pick-up truck. And since not all snails were crushed, we had a stomping party. I must confess: the sound of shells being crushed was music to my ears! I apologize to those who might be offended, but there was definitely a sadistic satisfaction in seeing crushed snails with flattened pink eggs  on the road! I mean, can you imagine how much young rice these things could've chomped on?!

The second picking (two days prior to transplanting) was not as productive as the first. Perhaps it was because the water was too murky, so we had to resort to feeling for the snails underwater with our hands. Perhaps we didn't flood the field enough for all the snails to come out of hiding. Perhaps the rest of them heard through the snail grapevine that picking's going on. Whatever the the reason might be, I'm sure it's not because there was much less of them in our plot.

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