Are Snails Herbivores?

Many people believe snails to be herbivores because of the amount of plant matter that they eat in your garden. Here, we’re going to look at the diet of snails and see if all species, or any species, of snail are fully herbivorous in nature or if they are, in fact, omnivorous.

The Quick Answer

Although some snails are herbivores, the majority are omnivores which means they will eat animal matter. Generally, they will eat decaying animal matter.

Are All Snails Herbivores?

There are many different snail species, and you are actually more likely to find snails that are omnivorous rather than herbivorous. Most snails have evolved to eat some types of animal matter, primarily decaying animal matter, but this evolution still means that most species are classed as omnivores.

There are some herbivorous species of land snails and there are even a couple of purely carnivorous species of land snails. The diet that a snail follows is determined through its size and environment as all snail species have evolved to have similar mouthparts, allowing them to eat almost anything. 

Which Snail Species are Herbivores?

Because of their large appetite and numerous species, it has been difficult for scientists to catalogue which species of snails are herbivorous. However, we do know that the most common snail you are likely to see is a herbivore itself. 

Garden snails are herbivores and also the most likely pest to be eating plants in your garden. They are not picky when it comes to plant matter. They will eat leaves, stalks, fruits, and flowers from your plants.

Are Snails Herbivores

Primarily, snails prefer to eat plant matter that is living and healthy, but they will also eat decaying plant matter. Snails will usually feed on your plants overnight, so if you are waking up to see your plants have had chunks taken out of them, it is quite likely to be the work of a garden snail. 

What Do Herbivorous Snails Eat?

As we have mentioned, snails are rarely picky eaters, and they are happy to eat almost any part of a plant. That being said, they do have some plants that they dislike eating and some that seem to be a favourite dish.

Below is a short list of some plants that are very likely to attract garden snails to your garden:

  • Hollyhock
    Hollyhock is a lovely plant that can be quite easy to grow in bedding areas or in pots. However, these pretty flowers also have an unwanted effect of attracting snails. You can protect these plants by surrounding the area with gravel or repellent plants as a barrier. 
  • Cabbage
    This leafy green vegetable is a favourite of both snails and slugs. There are many varieties of cabbage and snails are quite happy to feast themselves on any of them. You need to make sure that your cabbages can be adequately protected from snails, otherwise, you will have a lot of trouble getting any yield from your crop.
  • Strawberries
    Snails love strawberries. They are much more concerned with eating the fruit off of a strawberry plant rather than the rest of it. However, they will eat the stalks, leaves, and flowers off of a strawberry plant if there is nothing else for them to munch on.

    When growing strawberries, try to keep them in raised beds or off of the ground altogether. If not, you might just be swarmed by snails as well as slugs.
  • Hostas
    If you’ve ever grown hostas then you’ll know already that every snail on the planet will gravitate towards it and munch through its leaves before it is left withering and dying. 
  • Delphiniums
    Snails (and slugs) seem to love delphiniums when they’re young shoots which can make it challenging to grow any from seed in the garden.

Snails Eat Berries

Which Snail Species are Carnivores?

Whilst most species of snails are herbivores or omnivores, there are some predatory snails that are classed as carnivorous. This appears to be primarily shown in species of water snails.

However, with there being species of land snails likely still undiscovered, this may change in the future. One species of land snail, in particular, has made its mark for being a carnivorous predator. 

Powelliphanta is a species of giant land snail that is known for being a carnivore. Whilst its shell may only reach up to 9cm, this is still very large for a land snail. These snails are native to New Zealand and cannot be found elsewhere.

They will eat both living and dead animals with most of their consumption being other invertebrates. Their favourite food appears to be earthworms, primarily ones that are living and they have made a name for themselves as notorious hunters. 

Summary

Most species of snails are omnivores, but there are many herbivorous species and a few carnivorous species.

Common garden snails are herbivores. Some favourite plants of herbivorous snails include hollyhocks and strawberries. The most well-known carnivorous snail is a giant land snail called powelliphanta which is native to New Zealand. It feeds on invertebrates, primarily earthworms. 

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