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Updated on September 17, 2013
BlossomSB profile image

Although Bronwen has only a small garden now, she continues to be interested in gardens, plants, and the bugs that attack.

Snail-mail Devoured by Snails
Snail-mail Devoured by Snails | Source

Snail-mail for the Snails

Whether we send messages by email or by snail-mail, there can be problems. Emails can get viruses and snail-mail can be attacked by snails. See what I found had happened to a neighbour's snail-mail recently when she was away!

Obviously the snails thought that snail-mail was sent especially for them - "to read, devour and inwardly digest!"

Seriously, snails can be a problem, especially to gardeners. Even tiny gardens can be attacked, but before we look at what we can do to deal with the problem, let's have a closer look at these pesky creatures.

Rainy Day = Snails!
Rainy Day = Snails! | Source

Some Interesting Snail Titbits

Although snails are a pest, especially the introduced ones, they're interesting creatures. Some snails have gills and live in water, but our garden snails have a lung and as they live on the land, they're known as terrestrial gastropod mollusks and these are the ones we're looking at today.

  • They have a history that goes back to pre-history. Primitive types have been found from way back in the Cambrian era.
  • Snails cannot hear, but they can see and smell. I'm not sure about taste, but they do seem to be fussy eaters and will always go for the most tender young shoots on my most precious plants.
  • Their shell is made of calcium carbonate.
  • Snails have only one foot, but it is big. It is lubricated with mucus that helps it to progress without being injured. This leaves a silvery slime trail behind it.
  • As any gardener knows, snails are most active at night.
  • Snails are hermaphrodites, that means that they are both sexes, so they can mate with any other snail that they may meet.
  • Snails can lay 100 eggs at a time.
  • Baby snails are born with a tiny ready made shell.
  • Their shell keeps growing as the snail grows until they reach adult size.
  • Snails can live for up to 15 years or more.
  • Snails are right-handed. No!! But they do usually have a shell that coils around to the right.
  • Some Australian native snails are vegetarians, while others are carnivorous.
  • Some African snails grow to be the largest snails in the world.

I haven't read about this anywhere, but I've noticed that snails seem able to repair their shells when damaged. When snails have been squashed gently, so that the shell is broken, but the creature not hurt, it will stay in that place and gradually build the shell up again until it can move away to a safe place to finish mending. Therefore, it seems kinder to squash them properly, so that the snail is killed, if we want to get rid of them.

Almost Mended
Almost Mended | Source

Snails are Slow

Snails are slow - we knew that, but not how slow. it is said that their average speed is 1 mm per second.

In kindergarten my children learned a song:

Mrs. Snail, Mrs. Snail!

You leave a pretty silver trail

And we can see where you have been,

Slow, Mrs. Snail!

However, that's a bit of a misnomer, as they are hermaphrodites and so are both Mr. and Mrs!

Hydatids Prevention

Prevention for Humans is Important:

  • Don't feed farm dogs with dead stock
  • Give farm dogs regular prevention medication
  • Only feed farm dogs with well-cooked or canned food
  • Do not allow dogs to lick your face
  • Wash your hands after handling dogs

Snails and Disease

Snails can carry a number of diseases and parasites and some of these can be harmful to humans. They are best handled with gardening gloves.

Don't eat garden snails, even edible snails should be well-cooked.

The Rat Lungworm: This disease had been linked to cysts developing in the brains of very young children, but this can only occur when they are eaten - and believe me, snails attract young children when young ones crawl in the garden and everything goes into their mouths.

Meningitis: Even adults can contract meningitis from eating snails if they are not well cooked.

Hydatids: As a child, we learned that snails carried hydatids. We were taught that on farms, when the snails climbed up grass stalks and were eaten by sheep the sheep would contract the hydatids, which are a type of tapeworm that gets into soft places like the liver and the brain, so the wild birds that ate the snails were very welcome.

I'm not sure if this is still what is believed, but I do know that sheep, camels, deer and dingoes and dogs can contract hydatids. Farm dogs are especially vulnerable, as they are sometimes fed the offal from dead sheep. When the dogs are infected, they can transfer the hydatids to humans, through licking the face or from their coat. Hydatids in humans can cause serious illness or death, but sometimes they can be removed from some organs with major surgery.

Just About on its Way
Just About on its Way | Source

Snails for Dinner

Snails are edible and some creatures, including humans, eat snails. They were popular with the ancient Romans and around the Mediterranean as long as 6,000 years ago, and now in most of Europe and in various parts of Africa. There are farms that specialise in heliciculture and grow these special snails for the table. Now they are popular in gourmet restaurants around the world.

Have you ever noticed that when we want food, especially meat, to sound gourmet we change it to French. Some of the words have been Anglicised over time. Thus, pig becomes pork, cow becomes beef - and snail becomes Escargot! But they're really still snails. Actually with a lovely French garlic and butter sauce they taste rather good.

Snails for dinner anyone?

I have a funny story here:

Many years ago my husband had a scholarship and all the family sailed to England for a year. In early Spring we visited a local Roman villa (which was really interesting) and found lots of edible snails just coming out of hibernation. Having heard of these snails, we thought we'd like to try them and collected a whole billy-can full. We got a book from the Library and found that they should be starved for a few weeks so we put them in the apple store-room, covered the container with fine wire so they could breathe, and waited. As time drew on, we realized that a horrible smell met us every time we opened the store-room door. Yes, as they'd just come out of hibernations they were already starved, so we'd killed them!

No Roman snail orgy for us!

Squashed Properly - Yuck!
Squashed Properly - Yuck! | Source

How do you feel about snails?

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Snails Under Control

Some people actually have snails as pets, but as a gardener, I'm not one of them. Around here, we wage war on snails. Different people have diverse ways of dealing with them.

  • Hunt Them: As they're most active at night, especially on a damp night, this is a good time to don a raincoat and go snail-hunting. Get the kids in on the act, too: maybe 5c for five snails. They can be squashed if you're not squeamish, otherwise put in a container with salt.
  • Give them a bowl of beer: They love it! They climb over each other to get at it and fall in and drown. Some people think this would be a great way to go.
  • Pet safe bait: This is my choice. I usually put it out at dusk and it's often gone by morning. However, it needs to be repeated frequently as it spoils in the rain or if you have been watering the garden. Also, the snail eggs are in the soil and they keep hatching, but eventually we begin to win!


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    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      suzettenaples: They're interesting creatures, it's just a pity that they're also such a pest in these parts, as the beetles are in your gardens. Thank you so much for your comments and continued support.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 4 years ago from Taos, NM

      What an interesting article. Here in Ohio and Florida we are not bothered by snails, but the darn beetle in our gardens. I always wondered about garden snails and how they survived on land. No lung - who would have thought! I can't imagine eating them - I have not interest in ever doing that. Even the sea snails don't appeal to me to eat. Thanks for an interesting and informative hub. Now I know what to do if I ever run into any garden snails!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      annart: They may! I'm sure the ones from my neighbour leave silvery trails to my garden. The ones that are a bother for us are the introduced ones; the native ones cause little problem.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 4 years ago from SW England

      Yes they do destroy a lot but our garden is mostly grass so not a problem for us; not sure if they migrate to the neighbours!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Rolly A Chabot: I've never heard of that idea before. With all the snails here, I think that both I and my dog might end up bald! Might try it in moderation, though. Thank you.

      teaches12345: Giant snails! Were they introduced from Africa, because that where they normally live? I've heard that they're quite good to eat, if you're game to try.

      annart: Pity the book I borrowed didn't tell me that and my story may have had quite a different ending! That is interesting information. I agree that they are chewy. Perhaps your snails in France don't multiply as quickly as ours; here, to leave them means disaster for the garden, especially the vegies.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 4 years ago from SW England

      Interesting hub, full of wonderful information! The garden of our house in France is full of large, brown snails; they are the descendants of some which were 'cultivated' for eating by the previous owner. Apparently, apart from starving them of usual food, if you fed them on flour for the last two weeks of their lives, you knew that all their 'rubbish!' inside was emptied when the flour came out purely white; then you cooked them. I find 'escargots' a bit chewy but, as you say, the sauce they're cooked in can be delicious. We don't cook ours, we let them wander, trying to make up for butchering their ancestors!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Here in South Florida the environmental control agents are busy trying to get rid of the giant snails that are appearing around the area. I find them fascinating, but they can be destructive. Your funny story is one that has happened to me when trying to be a good Samaritan or zoo keeper.

    • Rolly A Chabot profile image

      Rolly A Chabot 4 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Hi Blossom... I agree they are not fun to have in the garden. An old trick I learned several years ago with slugs is to cut human hair in half inch lengths and spread it in the infested area. Once they have a hair stuck to themselves they will spend their remaining days attempting to remove the offending hair. Basically they will virtually stave to death. No chemicals or no harm to birds etc... give it a try.

      Hugs and Blessings from Canada

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Oh, no! I replied to all these above and forgot to click on "Post Comment."

      My apology - I'll do a bulk thank you, which I don't really like sending or receiving.



      Faith Reaper




      Frank Atanacio




      Thank you all so much for your replies and comments. I'm glad you enjoyed following my silvery trail and saw the funny side of parts of the post. I really enjoyed reading those lovely comments.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Informative and interesting. It gave me a nice read. Voted up.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Very interesting. You took us for a turn off the snail mail and then to a path full of facts and information. Voted Up!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. I use to eat snails. But then I thought about the price... and felt stupid.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      wow didnt really know where this hub was going to take me.. but very informative entertaining, and worth the read voted useful and awesome :)

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 4 years ago from TEXAS

      Snails I'm accustomed to here in Texas don't look at all like any of those. They're small, have slightly skinny grayish-white shells and usually stay quietly in them. Oh, one may notice those silvery trails occasionally, but they seem disconnected from their sources. They do like gardens and loose soil, obviously. If one digs in such, one is likely to unearth a snail or two. Other than that, they're not very invasive around here. I've not raised a garden in years, so perhaps I've forgotten their nastier habits.

      I've eaten escargot in New Orleans, and it was very tasty, as you say, with plenty of butter and garlic. But otherwise, I guess I've lived a fairly uneventful snail-life, being virtually unaware of and unaffected by them! haha. Your article certainly opens up the world of snails, though! I shall be more aware of these prehistoric hermaphroditical creatures from now on!

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      I just love the bowl of beer idea but I'm afraid the snail will have to compete with my hubby.:)

      Kidding aside, this is indeed very interesting and what a great opening picture to capture your readers attention.

      Thanks as well for sharing your funny story. I enjoyed it.


    • ExpectGreatThings profile image

      ExpectGreatThings 4 years ago from Illinois

      This was so interesting! I didn't realize they were born with tiny shells. A baby snail might be the only kind I like. The ones we have around here are just gross. And I had no idea they could live for 15 years.

      Also, I think you are hilarious. "Give them a bowl of beer: They love it! They climb over each other to get at it and fall in and drown. Some people think this would be a great way to go." Ha!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      Very interesting dear Blossom. I have known such about snails! I do not see many snails around here of late. That is amazing what they did to your neighbors mail.

      Up ++ and sharing

      God bless, Faith Reaper

    • W1totalk profile image

      W1totalk 4 years ago

      This is a good hub. The first thing I thought was about those attack movies with worms. This article just has very interesting information on snails I never knew.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Jackie Lynnley: Oh, no, it's certainly not just the slugs. I, too, admire the pretty snail shells - but not in my garden! The beer idea is what my son-in-law uses. I don't drink, either.

      Lastheart: They really are a pest and get into everything. Yes, they're supposed to be a gourmet food, but really I think it's the sauce that is the gourmet bit.

      cynthtggt: Thank you for your comments and for sharing.

      billybuc: I think slugs are totally gross! Yucky! Hope they don't eat all your best plants.

      Ericdierker: You are lucky! Yes, they don't thrive in drier areas. Even the smallest creatures are interesting. God's creation is full of wonders - even the pests that were sent to try us!

      cleaner3: Most children seem to be interested in snails and they are cleverly made when you think about it. In some places they even have snail races, but it could be rather boring and slow! As to eating them: as we've had the privilege to live in many different places we had a motto: try anything once, so we did! I guess they're protein or something.

      The Dirt Farmer: Sorry about the quiz. Perhaps I should have made it better. You're fortunate, then, to be able to share. Around here, if we don't wage continual war on snails, we wouldn't have a thing left in the garden, especially the vegetables.

      pstroubie48: Thank you and bless you, I love those angels.

    • livingsta profile image

      livingsta 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      You have shared here some really interesting facts about snails. Thank you for sharing this with us.

      As a child I used to love growing snails along with my pet fish. They were pretty and it was fun watching them eat, lay eggs, the young ones hatch and so on. Gone are those days.

      This is a beautiful and interesting hub :-)

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      Hi Blossom You filled in many of the gaps in my knowledge of these little creatures.

      Angels are on the way to you this evening. ps

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Enjoyed your hub! I wanted to take your quiz, but none of the answers fit. We have snails in our garden but are perfectly willing to share w/them. (: Shared your hub & voted it up.

    • cleaner3 profile image

      cleaner3 4 years ago from Pueblo, Colorado

      interesting hub.. Blossom, had one as a pet when I was a child but it became to much of a chore to keep it corralled.. got rid of it .. but many things here I did not know them ...ewwwww!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      They are here but not pests in our South Western Coastal desert - toward the coast they are a menace.

      This was a wonderful hub. It reminds me today to study even the smallest and obnoxious of creatures for I can learn much --- even from a snail.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      We have snails without shells here in Washington...the dreaded slugs. :) I don't hate them; I don't love them; I just tolerate them. :) Interesting tidbits of knowledge here my friend.

    • cynthtggt profile image

      Cynthia Taggart 4 years ago from New York, NY

      Great hub about snails and you've covered the whole gamut. I'm going to share. Interesting. Voted up.

    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 4 years ago from Borik√©n the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Great hub! You had me reading without blinking. We have them snails all around the yard and climbing walls. Very interesting information you have shared. Ohhh, I will starve if they were my only food.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Wow I sure did not know all this. came across a big snail today and just looked how pretty he was and set him aside. I had no idea he did any harm, I thought it was just those ugly slug! Thanks for all the info. Buying my first beer! ^