As chicken or beef are to the average airline passenger prawns or snails are to the average Johannesburg gardener.
And when I say prawns and snails … well a snail is a snail but over here a prawn is one of these …
The notorious Parktown Prawn. A species of King Cricket that generally lives in the soil … until it rains, and then, like zombies from The Night of the Dead, they emerge from their underground lairs, make a beeline or cricketline for the warm, dry indoors and terrorize the occupants, often ejecting foul smelling fecal matter as they bounce all over the place like some genetically modified mini-alien from a Ridley Scott movie. And as there is no Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley to save the day everyone invariably ends up running around the house flapping their arms screaming blue murder. Not me of course. Hah!
Being the Man of the House, I immediately spring into action. Usually by sneaking out the back door, slamming it shut and leg it to the pub. Then, from the safety of my bar stool, like ET, I phone home every ten minutes or so for updates until the All Clear signal goes up. Only then, heavily fortified, will I come back home handing out kudos for bravery to all and sundry.
But this year … No. Damn. Prawns! Yay!
Er … not so fast with the rejoicing there, Poindexter.
Although these nasty looking brutes were unknown in Johannesburg before 1960 they now play quite an important role in the suburban garden.
Which is why the average Jo’burg gardener has a choice …. prawns or snails. And when I say ”choice” it is usually at the fickle discretion of Mother Nature, who may well be influenced by global warming.
The Parktown Prawn likes nothing more than a lush suburban garden … well nothing more than maybe dozing inside your slipper next to your bed just waiting for you to need a late night visit to the loo …. and you cannot really have a lush suburban garden if you don’t have rain. Or a lot of irrigation.
With lots of water the Prawns thrive, and they attract the Hadeda Ibis, which love to nosh on lawn crickets but especially Parktown Prawns.
This year the rains were late. Too late, in fact, and we had a severe drought. Thus, practically no prawns, which meant a lot fewer Hadeda Ibis. And even the occasional Hoopoe that popped by would turn up empty-beaked after a short spell of disconsolate probing. It really was a lost cause. So, the snails have multiplied and gone bonkers.
Prawns eat snails, you see. They are natural enemies. No prawns …. well, you can guess, and whatever other natural enemies the snails have are demonstrating a marked lack of interest.
So there are snails all over the place, and with their number one enemy out the picture they are reveling in Brassica Heaven. So much so that, on their albeit slow travels they have discovered Gazanias, and Roses and a number of other incidentals along their slimey way.
Caution: Crunchy under foot.
I have collected loads of snails of various sizes in several plastic ice cream containers ( empty in case you were wondering) at least once a week for the past month.
I am fearful of putting down any pellets because of the pets and besides, I utterly loathe killing anything these days if I can possibly avoid it. In fact I am becoming concerned I may wake up one morning craving to shave my head and wear a saffron robe and carry a small brush to clear my path of potential Stomping Victims.
So, as we live on quite a large split-level stand (plot) I deposit the snails in this overgrown part of the garden away from most plants and veggies and maybe they can battle it out with any predators that may be lurking down there in the undergrowth or somewhere in the cosmos.
Meantime, on one of my Search and Clear missions I came across this snail helping out an obviously exhausted crab spider.
Respect where respect is due, right?