Sneaky Snails

Cone Shaped or Cone Shell Snail Photo Credits: Heather M. Young, Biological Scientist, NFREC-Quincy
Cone Shaped or Cone Shell Snail Photo Credits: Heather M. Young, Biological Scientist, NFREC-Quincy

Occasionally on shipments of container plants, snails (terrestrial air-breathing gastropods) may be found attached to the container pot. Snails are abundant in nearly all parts of the world except the arctic regions, and feed almost entirely on vegetation. Those mostly encountered on nursery container plants are cone shaped reaching 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches in length and having an external enclosing spiral shell or occasionally rounded shell with four to five rapidly expanding whorls that are 1 to 1 1/4 inches in size.

Image Credit: Henry Grant, Gadsden County Extension.
Image Credit: Henry Grant, Gadsden County Extension.

There are many species of snails. Most snails found on shipments are those restricted to tropical and semitropical regions requiring high humidity and warm temperatures. The U.S. has four native genera of Bulimulidae: Rhabdotus, Drymaeus, Orthalicus and Liguus. Of these, the last three genera are native to Florida. There is also another introduced genus in Florida, Bulimulus, which is primarily terrestrial. Other introduced species are Zachrysia provisoria and Caracolus marginellus in the Family Camaenidae occurs in Florida and found throughout much of the tropics.

Snails are also found in moist, shaded locations, which are similar to conditions found in container plant production areas, weedy locations or in organic trash. Most lay eggs throughout the season. Overwintering eggs may hatch in spring.



The following are general snail management suggestions:

  • Remove excess organic material under plants. Organic materials provide moist hiding places for eggs and smaller snails, and sometimes as food sources.
  • Monitor plant and environment moisture to reduce favorable snail habitats.
  • When possible, remove the snails by hand, which is a reasonable, effective, nontoxic and environmentally acceptable control option.
  • Check with your favorite garden store outlet for bait, biological, or chemical product control options.


For more information check out this gardening in a minute segment on snails and slugs.


Posted: September 23, 2013

Category: Horticulture
Tags: Container Gardening, Fall 2013, Insects, Nursery Containers, Panhandle Gardening, Professional Horticulture, Snails


Dennis Hancock
August 12, 2016

Great article! For the record, Dr. Bill Anderson conducted the research in Tifton. I was a collaborator, but it was Bill and his crew that put in the sweat equity.

Esther de Pedro
March 19, 2016

Do you have a similar for dog fennels? Thank you in advance.

July 30, 2015

Thanks for these good suggestions, Alex.

Jan Summerford
June 20, 2014

Alex, I really appreciate your professional guidance. To the average person something like this causes panic just based on their look. A white, woolly mass is a great description for them! And as usual, you didn't make me wait for the help I needed! Thanks!

March 26, 2014

The pictures located at are hyperlinked, but when I click on them I receive the following error: 404 - File or directory not found. The resource you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable. Could you please correct this oversight? Thanks. Dixie I.

Matthew Orwat
December 9, 2013

Snails feed on plants but are not harmful to the garden unless present in large quantities. It is probably looking for a place to over winter. Bring a sample to your nearest extension office for ID.

December 8, 2013

Good morning. We found a small snail in the driveway here where we live in N.W. Florida. What do these snails eat? Are they harmful to plants?

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