What do Snails Eat?

What do Snails Eat?

What do Land Snails Eat?

Snails tend to feed on a variety of items found in their natural habitat. What they will actually consume depends on where they live and the species of snail that they are. Some common items for their diet include plants, fruits, vegetables, and algae. Plants that are decaying are often a good meal for them. Seeking for calcium to get a thicker shell, snails usually will eat the dirt.

Most snail species are herbivores, which means they have only a plant diet, but some species are carnivores or omnivores. You will likely find snails around your garden as this offers them plenty of fresh plants and leaves to eat. If you use herbicides or pesticides on your plants you may be causing the death of many snails without even realizing it.

Snails as pests

Large numbers of snails though in a garden or even where farmers are growing crops can quickly become a serious problem. They will consume enough of what it growing to ruin the hard work that has been put into the area. If you are talking about a location where someone is growing food to eat or to sell then their livelihood is also being compromised. This is why people do all they can to prevent snails from consuming the agricultural crops that they are growing.

To be more humane, many that have gardens or farms strive to trap the snails that are in the vicinity rather than killing them. They either release them back into new environments or they will sell them as a source of food. Some of the easiest ways to trap them is to place lids from jars with beer in them in the garden.

For farmers that have too much land to do this, they have come up with another way to prevent damage to their crops. This involves placing 6 inch screens of copper that is placed in the ground. The slime from the snails doesn’t seem to mix very well with the copper and that means they will stay away from the foods that are growing. This process has been very successful.

Snails have to feed on foods that include large amounts of calcium. This is necessary to keep their shell hard and protective like it should be. When looking for food they use their powerful sense of smell to find their food. Snails can breathe through their skin and through an opening called the pneumostome visible on the right side of their bodies. (1) Snails have very poor vision so they can’t see what may be very close to them, but that is compensated with an excellent sense of smell.

Snails are nocturnal so they will be looking for sources of food during the night or during the very early morning hours. (2) They will consume more food at the colder months ahead come. This is so they can store up fat reserves to live on while some they hibernate during the winter.

When food sources are very low in the summer or spring months, they may voluntarily put their body into a state of hibernation as well. This allows them to conserve energy and not need to forage for additional food. This is a mechanism that allows them to be able to survive in difficult conditions of drought. (3)

They have a tongue that is very rough and the technical term for it is radula. They have rows of very small teeth that they use to scrap against the foods they want to consume. When you have snails as pets you want to pay close attention to their diet. If you feed them anything containing salt or sugar they will die.

They are often said to be very noisy eaters. However, the sounds you hear aren’t them consuming the food. Instead it is a part of the body called the radula which is tearing on what has been swallowed so it can find its way to the digestive tract.
(1)    http://www.pbs.org/kcet/shapeoflife/resources/snail.html

(2)    http://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/pubs/el14.htm

(3)    http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7427.html