Snails Pace

In an instant, from muted light to profuse and blinding, an assault of color and form on my freshly hatched eyes. Pulling tendril-like stalks close to my lacquer thin and transparent shell, I gather my composure. Slowly extending from the edge of galaxy inspired chirality, my shell, home, armor, comfort, I seek out a view of my surroundings. The smell of damp earth, the cool loam in evening and a recently unfurled leaf of lettuce. I begin my slow adventure, stomach/foot, held fast to the soil, I create my own path. Undulating waves of motion propel me forward on my self-made liquid road, leaving sparkling trails, meandering pathways for the keen observer. Hunger gnaws while aroma alights the senses, how far now? Radula rasping, I consume the recently unfurled and the previously senesced with voracious rapidity. Suddenly a shift in the darkness, I am inside in an instant, my galaxy, I shut the door with a wall quickly formed. A creature of vast proportions ambles by in the shadows. I wait, safely in my little home. After a time, I test the air, seeking first with one eye and then another, danger avoided I continue through the soundless world. My appetite assuaged, I seek refuge, leaving my glittery signature, I meander upward and over the lip of a cool, rough surface, finding solitude beneath an overhanging leaf, there I will wait.

Garden Snails in Florida
Snail on concrete
Snail, Photo credit: Alyssa Vinson

While often considered a nuisance, snails represent an interesting and essential group of terrestrial gastropods. Despite their propensity for munching on our lettuces, snails act as decomposers in the ecosystem, breaking down dead or dying plant material for better use by other organisms. They are also a valuable food source for birds, in fact, the endangered snail kite relies almost entirely on snails. Despite the ‘ick’ factor some may associate with them, snails can be fascinating to watch, and have a unique charisma.

Snails and slugs both belong to the phylum Mollusca, differing in the presence of shells in snails and none in slugs. Both are hermaphroditic, able to self-fertilize if necessary. In southwest Florida we have three common varieties of snails found in our gardens.

Common Species:

Garden Zachrysia Zachrysia provisoria

Asian Tramp Snail Bradybaena similaris



Holes in your lettuce and strawberries? Fed up with finding your produce purloined by gastropods? To remove snails from your garden you can pick them by hand, simply pick them up and drop them in a bucket of soapy water. You can also set passive traps such as; overturned pots or empty melon rinds, beer in a shallow dish or water and yeast in a shallow dish (dispose in a similar method as hand picking). Some choose to use copper barriers wrapped or taped around containers, or even left-over yogurt containers to protect young seedlings. See this document on management strategies for more information.

For interesting perspectives on snails check out these books: 

The Snail with the Right Heart: A True Story

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating


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Posted: September 14, 2022

Tags: #bugs, Featured Hot Topic, Gardening, Horticulture, Snails, UF/IFAS

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