Posting living mollusca

Live-stock are classified in the Post Office Guide in the same category as filth, indecent or obscene communications, prints, photographs, books or other articles, as "prohibited articles," with the following exceptions:

  • Live bees, leeches and silkworms must be enclosed in boxes so constructed as to avoid all risk of injury to officers of the Post Office, or damage to other packets.
  • Certain parasites and destroyers of noxious insects intended for the control of such insects are admissible if similarly packed, but only when sent by letter post between officially recognised institutions.
  • Certain other harmless living creatures such as mealworms, earthworms, ragworms, lugworms, caterpillars, maggots and so on may be sent by letter post, but only with the prior permission of the Postal Services Department (H.M.B.), Headquarters Building, General Post Office, St. Martin's-le-Grand, London, E.C.1, and in packing approved by that Department.

Presumably Mollusca would rank as "so on." At the risk of incurring a charge of incitement to commit a felony or misdemeanour, one ventures to recommend that a blind eye be turned on these tiresome regulations. Provided the snails are securely restrained, so that they cannot bite the postman, and the packet is not provocatively labelled "Live Stock," detection is improbable. Furthermore, to an undiscerning official a contracted living snail would barely be distinguishable from a dead shell, and even slugs exhibit little evidence of animation. So we may now proceed to consider the best methods of insuring the comfort of our specimens in transit.

The larger land snails are best sent in cardboard boxes and kept dry; they will seal the mouth of the shell with an epiphragm and survive for quite a long time. For those of medium size, match-boxes are convenient. Minute kinds should be sent in specimen-tubes, perhaps with a little moss. SuccineaVitrina and Zonitidae should be sent in tins or tubes with damp moss, filter- paper, or clean blotting paper, but excessive moisture must be avoided. Slugs should be sent in tins, such as tobacco tins, with a piece of lettuce or cabbage leaf. Mycophagous slugs may be provided with a piece of mushroom or toadstool, which would not have time to putrefy on a short journey.

Freshwater Mollusca should be packed in tins or tubes with a little damp pondweed, such as Elodea, but should not be in water. Unionidae can be put in polythene bags and packed in crumpled newspaper or wood shavings. I have no experience of sending marine Mollusca by post, but presumably they will travel well if packed in moist seaweed.

Avoid over-crowding and excessive dampness. There is no real need to supply food, and it is not necessary to pierce air holes in the container, in fact this should not be done. It is inadvisable to post living Mollusca during very hot weather. Make sure, of course, that the packet is securely fastened, e.g. with celotape, and correctly addressed. These hints apply to inland post¬age only. Overseas mail, even sample post, is liable to be inspected, so the contents should at any rate appear to be lifeless, unless all the regulations have been scrupulously complied with.

A. E. Ellis