What Do Snails Eat?

What Do Snails Eat

Snails are often hated by gardeners as they munch their way through cabbages, hostas and dahlias. But what else do snails eat? Do they only eat your favourite perennials or will they eat other crops, flowers and bugs?

Snails will eat a combination of plant and animal matter. Their diet includes plants, soil, worms, fungi and algae but it will differ between snail species and the age of the snail.

What Plants Do Snails Eat?

When it comes to plants, snails are not too fussy and usually eat any part of the plant. This includes the leaves, stems, roots, bark and fruit. They are also not too concerned with the state of the plant as they will eat it alive and healthy or when it is dying and decaying.

Unfortunately, the list of plants that they will enjoy eating is lengthy. Here are some of the popular plant varieties that seem to be snail magnets: 

  • Marigolds and Sunflowers
    Marigolds and sunflowers are so attractive to snails that they are often used as trap plants. If you want to keep snails out of your vegetable patch, for example, then planting a row of marigolds nearby can keep them distracted. 
  • Delphiniums and Lupins
    The main issue with delphiniums and lupins is that snails love the early, new growth. Once established, they seem to hold up a little better so it’s a good idea to protect the new growth with cloches or natural pellets. 
  • Hostas
    Hostas are notoriously loved by pesky snails who will munch away on the hosta until it becomes withered and dies. 
  • Dahlias
    Snails won’t limit themselves to leaves and flowers but will also munch through tubers on plants such as dahlias. 

Snails Eat Hostas

What Crops Do Snails Eat?

Unfortunately, snails aren’t content with ruining your flower beds. They’ll also work their way through a variety of vegetable, fruit and herb crops. Unfortunately, the list of crops that snails will eat is extensive and if you’re going to grow vegetables in the garden then it is almost a guarantee that you’ll have to deal with snails. 

Here is a selection of favoured crops that snails will enjoy devouring:

  • Green Leafed Vegetables
    This is undoubtedly the biggest snail magnet that you can grow. Snails adore green-leafed veg. This includes almost all types of cabbages and lettuces that you can find. 
  • Strawberries
    You won’t find much damage done to the leaves or the flowers of this plant, but you will very likely find that a snail has been chomping down on the fruit itself. It couldn’t get much worse!
  • Pumpkins
    Whilst pumpkins are very attractive for snails, they don’t actually eat the fruit of the pumpkin. They eat the leaves of the plant, which can stunt the growth, but the actual fruit will be left untouched. If you keep an eye on the leaves of your pumpkins, you can grow them without fear of snail infestations. 

Snails Eat Cabbage

What’s worrying is that this list is not exhaustive in any way. 

Snails are one of the least fussy pests to find in the garden and they’re also incredibly common. Even though they are incredibly persistent and a nuisance, we would advise against using chemical slug pellets which can negatively impact beneficial insects and plants. 

What Else Do Snails Eat?

There are many varieties of snails, and their diets differ. Some are herbivorous or carnivorous, but most appear to be omnivorous. This means that they will eat both plant and animal matter.

We’re going to look at the main components of an omnivorous snail’s diet so that we can cover all bases of what kinds of food they eat. Here is a list of some of their main foods:

  • Soil
    This is usually consumed by snails that are growing. Growing snails will eat both soil and sand to provide themselves with a large amount of calcium. This calcium helps them to build up a strong and healthy shell. Adult snails with a fully grown shell do not need this calcium as much and will be less likely to consume soil or sand
  • Funghi
    Many snails are happy to consume various fungi and mushrooms amongst species of land snails. However, you are less likely to find snails in your garden eating fungi than you are finding ones that eat your crops. 
  • Algae
    This is not a food for many snails, but it is the main source of nutrition for species of freshwater snails. 
  • Worms
    For most species of omnivorous or carnivorous snails, worms appear to be the main source of animal matter in their diets. The most popular worms that snails eat are earthworms, although some larger carnivorous snails will eat larger species of worms. 

Snails Eat Worms

Because of how snails have evolved, they can eat almost anything and likely will if they are hungry enough. Snails will eat most of the plants that you may have in your garden, and this can cause a lot of damage to your growing flowers.

Preventing snails from getting to your plants in the first place is the best way to protect them from being eaten.

Are There Plants That Snails Do Not Eat?

If you are thinking of adding to your garden, planting things that snails will not eat is a great way to ensure their safety from pesky molluscs. There are not many plants that snails will avoid eating, but there are a few that you can use to drive them away:

  • Lavender
    Snails dislike the smell of lavender and therefore will not eat this plant. Lavender is great to grow as it attracts beneficial creatures such as butterflies, but it works to repel pests, including the aforementioned snails and even slugs. It is also a hardy plant that smells wonderful. 
  • Geraniums
    Snails actually don’t like these plants because they have hairy stems, and they are not appetising, to say the least. Interspersing these flowers throughout your garden is a great idea because not only does their stem texture deter snails, but it also a texture that snails do not like to cross, so you can use geraniums to deter snails from going into other areas of your garden. 
  • Rosemary
    This lovely and fragrant herb is easy to grow and quite hardy. As well as its appealing smell, it is also nice to look at as it grows some beautiful white flowers. A couple of other benefits of this herb, the smell deters snails and slugs as well. 

While snails do not like these plants, they are not always 100% effective at driving snails away. Some snails will ignore the off-putting presence of flowers in favour of food if they are desperate enough.

The best way to keep snails out of your garden is to combine a variety of methods that work to deter them. 

Summary

Snails will eat just about anything. There are species of both carnivorous and herbivorous snails.

Most snails eat large amounts of plant matter, both live and decaying. Land snails also like to eat fungi and worms. Freshwater snails eat lots of algae. Snails will eat almost any type of crop in your garden.

Some plants that snails won’t eat and will be deterred by include lavender and rosemary. 

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