Garden snails are a gardener's nightmare. They come in a wide variety of colors and feed on just as wide a variety of plants. From vegetables to fruit, succulent leaves and saplings, snails will eat almost anything. Like any animal, though, snails have some favorites, such as hostas, strawberries and tomatoes.
Fruits and Vegetables
Snails prefer fruits and vegetables that are close to the ground, but if the food stuff is tempting enough, they have been known to climb tall stalks and even trees. Strawberries are at particular risk, as are tomatoes and artichokes. Citrus trees are frequent targets of snail attacks. Snails have also been documented on cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, beans, beets, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, mangle, onions, peas, radish and turnips. Fruit trees where snails have been spotted include apple, apricot, peach and plum.
Annuals, Perennials and Shrubs
Snails also enjoy nibbling on tender growth of annuals, perennials and shrubs. Hosta seems to be a universal favorite, though snails will eat nearly any kind of annual and many kinds of perennials. They seem to do less damage to shrubs, but hibiscus, magnolia, rose, boxwood, cypress and junipers have suffered snail infestations.
Snails are efficient waste digesters. Decaying plant material, especially leaves, nearly always harbor feeding snails. Snails also enjoy cardboard and waste paper when it begins to break down. Frequently found hiding in moist, dark places, snails will feed on molds opportunistically.
Feeding in Captivity
A popular classroom project, keeping snails requires that they be fed nutritious foods since they can't go out to forage on their own. Soft fruits and vegetables from the list above are good choices for snail food. They will also need a source of calcium, such as a piece of chalk, placed in their habitat.
- University of Florida; Brown Garden Snail; G. W. Dekle; August 2002
- University of Illinois; Snails and Slugs; Raymond A. Cloyd; July 1999
- Arizona Cooperative Extension; Backyard Gardener: Snails, Slugs and Their Control; Jeff Schalau; March 2007
- University of California FossWeb: Land Snails
- University of Connecticut; Slug and Snail Fact Sheet; Milton G. Savos. et al.; 2005
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