what do garden snails eat
Organic Gardening Pest Control

A Quick Guide: What Do Snails Eat and Snail Population Control

Every creature on earth has a purpose on Earth, and that includes snails. They have a purpose. By what is their purpose? Did you know that snails are not picky eaters and will happily munch on almost anything? Their purpose in the garden is to be a decomposer and some can protect against other pests. However, snails can be quite the pest in the garden and even become overly populated in the garden. Knowing what they eat and other facts about them can be helpful in keeping them at bay and taking over your plants.

This post is about ‘what do snails eat’.

What are Snails?

What in the world is a snail and what is a snail classified as?

Is a snail an animal?

Are snails insects?

All land snails are gastropods, and belong to the class gastropoda which contains as many as 65,000 animal species.. This class includes not only snails, but slugs, conchs, and whelks. Gastropoda is the largest group within the phylum, Mollusca. Mollusca is the second largest phylum of invertebrates and contains animals like octopus, squid, clams, snails, and slugs.

Snails are mollusks, like slugs and clams, and they have soft bodies with a hard shell made of calcium carbonate that helps to protect them from their predators.  

They’re not considered insects, but are instead animals.

What’s the Difference Between a Snail and a Slug? 

Slugs and snails look very similar. They both belong to the same class and phylum as previously discussed above. They both have the same looking soft-body.  Both leave a slimy trail (mucus) behind them as they move.  The mucus that they release has a purpose – it prevents moisture loss. Being in dry soil causes snails and slugs to lose hydration and become dehydrated, which can cause them harm. Both have a singular, broad, flat bottom, muscular foot that is covered with epithelial cilia and mucus. 

The main difference between the two is the shell. Snails have a shell that helps protect them from predators, while snails don’t have a shell.

What Do Snails Eat and Drink?

Snails are creatures that can easily adapt to their surroundings, and their dietary preferences are no exception. But do all snails eat the same things? The answer is no. Snail species have different food preferences. Depending on the species of snail they can be herbivores, omnivores, or carnivores. Their diets can consist of vegetation, fruits, algae, fungi, and other smaller snails. Some enjoy dead plant material, and others prefer dead animals.

Snails in the Garden: What Vegetables do Snails Eat?

Know what snails eat and that each species has a different diet and preferences, what crops are at risk in the garden?

Snails (and slugs) are very attracted to the following crops (examples but not limited to):

  • Lettuce
  • All different types of cabbage (Brussel sprouts, Chinese cabbage, etc)
  • Strawberries (fruit)
  • Zucchini 
  • Eggplant 
  • Spinach
  • Basil
  • Dill
  • Marigolds

Many plants are especially affected when they’re young plants/seedlings.

[RELATED POST: Organic Gardening: How to Control Earwigs in the Garden]

Organic Pest Control: How to Get Rid of Pest

Normally, I don’t have any snails or slugs in my garden so thankfully they’re not an issue. We do have an occasional snail or slug here or there, and they’ve really only affected our strawberries. 

Snails and slugs are usually out at night, but can be out during the day if it’s cloudy, foggy, or damp. They’re not animals that you’d normally find out during the day. When it’s sunny and/or hot, they hide away trying to keep cool. After all, they don’t want to dry out and depend on moisture. Damage from other pests may be confused with snail and slug damage. To differentiate between other pests, snails and slugs look for a mucous trail. Or you might just happen to find the slug or snail on your plant!

If you do happen to have slugs in your garden, here are some tips on how to keep their population under control.

1. Hand-picking

One of the easiest and safest ways to keep slugs and snails from eating your garden is by hand-picking them. No tools or anything else is necessary except for your own two hands…and maybe a pair of gloves. I don’t know about you, but I get skeeved out by the mere thought of touching a slimy slug or snail.

2. Live Snail Traps

It’s not an actual trap, but a separate type garden that they’re attracted to that keeps them away from your vegetable garden. However, use caution when using this option because it could attract more snails and slugs and defeat the purpose.

Create a physical barrier around your plants with materials like rocks or mulch. This will make it harder for pests to traverse.

3. Natural Snail Repellent – Use What You Have Around the House

The below three options are easy to implement because most people have them in their homes. There’s no need to buy something which can be helpful if you’re on a tight budget with your garden.

  • You don’t necessarily have to use chemicals to deter snails from your garden. Enter coffee grounds! Sprinkle the coffee grounds around the plants that need protection.
  • Create a beer trap. Sink a container into the ground. It doesn’t need to be a large container. The container should be placed in the ground at or just above the soil level. Fill the container with beer. The snails and slugs are attracted to the beer and fall in.
  • Don’t throw out your egg shells. Egg shells can be reused in the garden, so less waste goes to the landfill. It’s a win-win! Sprinkle egg shells, sea shells, or both around plants that these critters are attracted to.

4. Organic Slug Control

These are options you may already have at home or you might have to purchase. It depends what you have in your arsenal.

  • Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a natural pest control that you can use to help keep snails and slugs away. It works by creating a barrier between the pests and the plants they are trying to eat. DE should be applied in a thin layer around the base of your plants. Be careful not to breathe this product in as it’s an abrasive powder.
  • Copper tape or strips can also be used as a way to keep snails and slugs away. The copper reacts with the mucus on the snail’s body, causing them discomfort and preventing them from crawling over it.
  • Make your own DIY spray. This is a great way to make your own organic slug repellent with ingredients you may already have around the house. Mix garlic, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and water in a spray bottle and spritz it around the plants you’d like to protect.
  • Nematodes are microscopic worms that can be used to target and kill pests such as slugs, caterpillars, and grubs. They also help with aeration of the soil which helps plants become more healthy and vibrant.
  • Recycled wool waste pellets can be used as a natural slug repellent. The wool pellets act as tiny little prickles on the slugs body, creating an uncomfortable environment for them to crawl over. 

[RELATED POST: Organic Gardening: How to Prevent and Control Vine Borers]


Snails have positive benefits–not only can they act as decomposers in the garden, but they may also help protect against certain insect pests. Garden snails can be quite beneficial if kept in check and managed appropriately. Pest control is essential for healthy gardening, and utilizing any of the abovementioned natural approaches (hand-picking, live snail traps, natural snail repellent/DIY spray, and organic slug control methods) can provide effective solutions without using just chemical-based alternatives. Organic pest control is both eco-friendly and ethically responsible; it’s a sustainable alternative that will help maintain your garden’s health while respecting all living things involved in the process. Of course, most important of all is not to forget that snails deserve respect too; these small creatures are an important part of our ecosystems and we should respect them for their beauty and immense worth.

This post was all about ‘what do snails eat’.

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