A Slimy Frenzy in a Jar

I am counting down to the end of the school year by sharing some of my favorite memories from my time here at STJ. I’m not sure this one qualifies as a memory as it happened this morning, but let’s not argue over the details.

A few years ago, I discovered this nonfiction book and right away, I had a new favorite read-aloud for 1st and 2nd grade.

It’s a fascinating book about the wolfsnail, a carnivorous snail that eats other snails and slugs. It uses its extra set of feelers that look much like a mustache to follow his victim’s slime trails and his radula, a long, toothy tongue. to reach into a snail’s shell to get the meat out.

I’ve always kind of wanted a wolfsnail to show my students. I found one a few summers ago in my backyard, but the school year was still weeks away and I didn’t think I could keep it alive long enough, so I let it be.

Last week, my dreams came true. All of the enrichment teachers were together eating lunch, and our Spanish teacher mentioned that she found a big snail that she wanted to donate to the science lab. She said she was trying to feed it, but it wouldn’t eat any of the plants she had put in its jar. Then she mentioned that it had a funny little mustache.

I imagine that my eyes got really big, and I exclaimed “YOU HAVE A WOLFSNAIL!”

I explained to her that the reason her snail wouldn’t eat was because it doesn’t eat plants. It eats meat. Other snails and slugs.

She ended up giving me the wolfsnail, so I could read the book to some of my classes, and show the snail to the kids.

I took him back to the library and let him crawl around a bit. It was great.

I knew I had to feed him, though. Wolfsnails can go a while without eating, but I had no way of knowing when he had last had a meal. I had my kids search the backward for snails and slugs, but the most we could find was an empty dried up shell.

Our art teacher came though for me. She and her kids brought me a cup full of little snails and one giant slug. He was almost as big as my wolfsnail. We thought Wolfy probably couldn’t eat him, but that maybe they could keep each other company. We shook them all into the jar together and hoped for the best.

Right away, the giant slug went for Wolfy. They got all tangled up and stuck together and they both started wiggling back and forth vigorously.

I did some quick googling and learned that some slugs are also carnivores and will eat other slugs and snails. I didn’t know for sure that this slug was, but something was going on, and it seemed that Wolfy was trying to get away.

I was worried that before too long, I would just have an empty shell to share with my students. I went into action, picking up Wolfy by his shell and using the eraser end of a pencil to separate the two hungry invertebrates. I put the slug back into his cup, and Wolfy back into his jar with the other little snails.

Hopefully, he will get some nourishment and will last the week, so I can set him free this weekend.

So far, it’s been great, My first graders this morning were super excited about meeting him. They’ll never know that I almost accidentally fed him to his cousin.

Published by Benji

I am an elementary school librarian in Montgomery, AL.

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