- I had heard that a beer trap would catch snails.
No one told the snails.

Dear Sir,

I'm told that my garden suffers a duck deficiency.

The immediate sign of this deficiency is to be seen in the vast numbers of snails engaged in synchronised grazing in my vegetable patch. Legions of them. Battalions of them. Flocks, herds and squillions of them. I suspect the correct noun for a collection of snails is a "Decimation". But I digress. If you tip toe close to my vegetable patch you can hear them singing their happy little eating songs.

They draw heavily on Negro spirituals and exhibit a surprising baritone quality.

I have tried to get rid of them with a number of techniques:

I have, with some success, used the 'two brick' method. Basically the principle is to put down one brick, lay a snail on it and, with due consideration of force, velocity, momentum and projectile mechanics, apply the second brick to the first. In the spirit of fair play, if the snail can duck out of the way it is considered a free man. Generally messy but certainly absolute.

I have used a badminton racquet to launch them into low earth orbit. It tends to upset the neighbours and, if applied with too much force, can leave you standing in a fine mist of snail puree.

I have tried collecting them and pouring salt on them. Effective, spectacular even, but there are limited uses for a bucket full of frothy salted snails.

I have used the various pellets to some success. This upsets the 'greener' elements in my marriage and I wilt readily under the disapproving stare of an agitated Scottish conservationist with her dander up and spurtle in the attack position.

The possibility of getting a duck was broached but, as the afore mentioned Scot would have nothing of the chopping block, the duck would be in for the long haul. No orange sauce for it; senile decay and incontinence would be its fate. Actually, I suspect ducks are born incontinent. Not really a good option.

I was at my wits end. It is not a long trip but it is an excessively lonely little spot.

What was I to do? I lay in bed at night and imagined I could hear the muffled giggling of a million gastropods devouring my garden. When I took the bin out at night I made certain crunchy inroads into their numbers but this gave me scant pleasure as I was sure that it is just a small part of the wave of 'tourists' that, having heard about my garden on the grape vine, were coming to visit the rels for supper.

You can imagine my joy when I was told about the beer trap for snails.

You probably know about ti but the gist of the process is that you bury a jam jar up to its rim in the garden, pour in a couple of inches of beer, and then stand back to avoid the slimy stampede of parched snails, whipped to a frenzy by the promise of free beer.

I followed the instructions yesterday. Late last night I went out with a torch to watch the massacre. Nothing. The gentle strains of 'Ol' Man River' were coming from the depths of the silver beet. The cabbages, playing hosts to a bevy of Russian tourists, echoed to the 'Volga Boat Song.'

No interest was being shown in the beer traps.

In a act of pure malice I picked up a snail, threw it into the beer and stormed inside.

The snail was still there in the morning. No other snails had come to join him. Mind you he had not crawled out either but that was scant consolation as I surveyed the shredded wreckage of my vegetable garden.

So why am I writing to you? Because I am desperate, that's why.

I used Foster's Special in this less than spectacular trap. Is this the right beer for snails? Is it too weak? Would they prefer real Fosters? Stout? Draught? Bitter?

Do you produce a special beer, 'Two Brick Bitter' perhaps, for these traps?

Is there hope or should I just get a duck and be done with it?

J. Cosmo Newbery.

REPLY: They wrote back and pointed out that their corporate mission statement revolved around the desire to produce excellent beers for human enjoyment and not as a vehicle to induce snails to enter the after life. They did say I may have better luck with a beer with less hops and more alcohol.