While snails are cute creatures that can be fun to watch, many people struggle with them being in their gardens. They cause damage and destroy flowers, leaves, and fruits, becoming a nuisance. This leaves many people wondering, do snails eat grass too?
The fortunate answer is that they usually don’t, but there are exceptions. Also, just because they don’t harm your grass doesn’t mean they won’t cause problems in the rest of your yard.
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What Is A Snail?
Snails are part of the phylum Mollusca in the class Gastropoda. Snail-like ancestors are some of the earliest animals known on earth, with primitive gastropod ancestors dating back to 500 million years ago.
Snails have survived for so long because they are highly adaptable and have evolved to survive in a variety of extreme conditions.
To be classified as a mollusk, an animal must lack a skeleton and bones. Being part of the class Gastropoda means that they have a soft and unsegmented body that may be covered with some form of protection. For snails, this means a shell.
They have a foot at the base of their body that is very muscular and allows them to travel. They secret a mucus from the foot to help them slide along easier. It also offers protection from sharp objects.
There is estimated to be more than 60,000 species of snails both on land and in water. Aquatic and land snails differ in what conditions they can live in and how their bodies are structured.
Land snails vary the most in size with some being only a few inches long, to others growing to reach almost a foot.
True land snails are unable to live in water and cannot breathe in water. They are only equipped with lungs and will drown if they find themselves in a body of water they can’t escape from.
There are some land snails that have gills that allow them to breathe water so that they can travel between water and land.
Want to know more about how snails breath? Read our guide here.
Unlike land and freshwater snails, sea snails are adapted to living in the ocean where the salinity is high. If a land or freshwater snail were to find themselves in the ocean, the salt would kill them.
Unlike land snails and some freshwater snails, most sea snails only have gills to breath water. They cannot breathe air and will dry up and die if they are out on land for too long.
Freshwater snails are unique in that they have the most complex respiratory systems of all snails. While most have one or two gills to breathe water, some also have a lung to breathe air for a time. They come equipped with a long organ called a siphon that they use to poke above the water surface to breathe.
The difference between freshwater snails with a lung and land snails with a gill is that freshwater snails cannot stay on land for too long. They can breathe air for a few hours, but if they are out of water for too long, they will dry up and die.
Do Snails Eat Grass?
Most terrestrial snails do not enjoy eating grass, but they will eat it when they can’t find anything else. Here are some reasons why snails don’t like grass:
- It contains silica — a sharp material that is painful to eat.
- Because of this, they will generally only eat grass when it is dead.
- Grass doesn’t have the same nutritive value as other plants.
Where this is an exception is if you have a newly planted lawn or grass that has freshly sprouted. They like to eat turfgrass seedlings, but they don’t generally like to eat mature grasses.
Are Snails Bad For Grass?
Because they usually don’t eat grass, snails are not generally bad for your grass. Of course there are exceptions, but snails can be good for the health of your grass. Snails love to eat garden debris and will help you keep your yard looking clean. Their feces will help to fertilize your plants because it is rich in nitrogen and other minerals that boosts plant nutrition.
While snails generally do not cause problems with grass, they can be troublesome for the rest of your garden. Because of their sticky foot, they make great climbers. They love to eat flower buds and fruit, and reek havoc on tree bark.
They are also known for eating flower bulbs before they have even sprouted. As stated before, they will easily decimate juvenile grass seedlings. Not only that, but they can transmit diseases like rat lungworm, so they can be quite a problem.
How Can You Tell If Snails Are Damaging Your Lawn?
Snails don’t like to be out during the day because it’s too hot. They like to come out during the cover of night when it is moist and cool. So, since you rarely see snails, it may be difficult to determine if they are causing damage to your lawn. Here are some things to look out for:
- A mucus trail.
- They leave behind a mucus trail that is silvery in color and can most often be noticed on stones or wood. Look out for these slime trails near any of your damaged plants.
- The damage to the plants.
- The damage that snails cause to plants look different than that of other creatures. They will leave large, jagged holes in the leaves.
- The physical presence of snails.
- Although they are difficult to spot, it is not impossible. In areas where you notice destruction, look for dark, cold, and moist areas. Such areas include under the leaves of large plants, under mulch or planters or underneath wood.
How To Remove A Snail Problem From Your Lawn
Although snails are not generally a problem for mature, established lawns, they will eat other plants you may have in your garden. If they become too much of a problem, there are ways to eliminate them.
- Remove hiding places.
- This is likely the kindest way to rid your yard of snails because you’re not actually doing anything to them. Simply get rid of areas they may like to hide (cool, dark spaces) and they will simply move on.
- Hand Picking & Traps
- If you don’t want to harm the snails, but are still having problems with them, you can always remove them manually. This method takes a long time and isn’t as effective, but it is a more humane option. Simply relocate them to an area far from your house where they can still thrive.
If these natural options aren’t working for you and you’re still having an issue with snails destroying your plants, there are effective ways of killing them.
- Deadline Force 2
- We don’t really recommend this option because you’ll be spraying a harmful pesticide into your lawn. However, if you’re desperate, it is effective in killing snails. Click here for more information.
- Garden Safe Slug & Snail Bait
- This product will also kill snails, but it is a more natural product and will not harm your yard or garden. It contains iron phosphate which is toxic to snails, and they will die within three to six hours of consuming it. Click here for more information.
Although snails are interesting and attractive critters, most people don’t want to have them in their yard. While they generally won’t damage grass, they can decimate your juvenile grass seedlings, and can destroy your garden.
Whether you’d like to eliminate snails from your garden, or are willing to sacrifice your plants to keep their company, the choice is yours.