13 Things Snails Eat In Your Yard

by | Slugs & Snails, Snails

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Snails are very common in backyards, but what are they eating as they crawl along at night?

Most common garden snails eat plants, trees, fruits, vegetables, and calcium-rich foods, such as soil, leafy green vegetables, and limestone. Some snails also eat meat, fungi, or paper. The snail’s species, age, habitat, season, appetite, and nutritional needs control what and how much a snail eats.

A hungry snail isn’t a fussy one, and it will often eat whatever it can find. But snails are social eaters and prefer to eat with others rather than alone. If you find a plant or other food source in your yard that’s being eaten by snails, there’s probably more than one snail munching on it. Knowing what snails eat will help you find many snails in your yard.

Snails eat plants

Photo of a common garden snail tearing a plant leaf with its body to eat

Most common garden snails eat plants, including the leaves, flowers, stems, and tubers. They prefer fresh growth on young plants and any leafy greens, but will eat older growth if that’s all there is. Snails love eating dahlias, delphiniums, clover, hostas, marigolds, and nettle plants.

Snails are often seen eating the following plants in backyards:

  • Alyssum
  • Aster
  • California boxwood
  • Chamomile
  • Carnations
  • Dandelions
  • Henbane
  • Hibiscus
  • Hollyhock
  • Lilies
  • Magnolia
  • Nasturtiums
  • Pansies
  • Petunias
  • Phlox
  • Roses
  • Sorrel
  • Sweet peas
  • Thistle
  • Thornapple
  • Yarrow
Photo of snail and snail damage
This is a snail eating a plant’s leaf. Snails tend to make small holes in the soft parts of leaves, between the veins. These holes are jagged around the edges, not smooth, and the holes grow bigger with time.

If a snail eats a lot of plant material, its poop turns green.

Snails eat trees

Snails eat tree leaves, branches, and young plant bark, especially after a lot of rain when this is softer. Even though snails eat parts of trees and have no fear of climbing high to get to tree food, they don’t do much damage to trees.

Snails use their jaw and thousands of teeth to eat trees and and all the other foods in this list. Click here to find out how snails eat their food.

Photo of the tracks left on a tree trunk as snails grazed on bark algae
In this picture, you can see the tracks left behind by a snail grazing on bark algae.
Original picture sourced, with thanks, from Matthew Borden, Bartlett Tree Experts, Bugwood.org

Snails eat grass

Snails rarely eat grass. When they do, they prefer freshly seeded grass and newly sprouted grass over an established lawn. Mature grass has a lot of silica in it that makes it quite rough for snails to crawl over and tough to chew, and grass doesn’t have many nutrients that snails need.

Get more info on grass damage from snails and how to stop them by clicking HERE.

Snails eat herbs

Snails rarely eat herbs and you won’t often find snails in your herb garden. But some snails do love basil and seem to eat it faster than it can grow. Other snails occasionally eat chives, coriander, dill, fennel, lemon verbena, marjoram, and parsley.

Snails eat algae and fungi

Snails eat algae and fungi, including mushrooms, yeasts, and mold. When they find it, snails eat fungi conks on trees, algae and fungi on rocks and walls, whatever’s growing on rotting debris, and any mold growing in a bathroom or damp areas of a house.

Photo of conks on a tree trunk to show what snails eat
These conks growing on the tree trunk are fungi that snails love to eat.

One of the reasons why you might find snails climbing the walls of your house is because they are looking for algae or fungi on the outside or mold on the inside. Click here to get all the fascinating reasons why snails climb walls.

Snails eat decaying matter

Some snails eat rotting things, including plant materials and animals. They will eat whatever solid decaying matter they can find, like animal carcasses, dead snails, or dead plants, and any debris they discover lying on the ground. This makes snails part of nature’s cleanup crew.

Snails eat seeds

Snails eat plant seeds lying on the ground or in soil. Those with pet snails often feed their snails hemp, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds to supplement their diet. But snails always prefer the tender young growth sprouting from seeds than the seeds themselves.

Snails eat meat and eggs

Some snails eat meat, such as small animals, worms, slugs, and even snails. Snails eat the flesh, marrow, and organs of these animals. Some snails eat eggs for protein and calcium, and most eat the eggshells they hatch from and nearby snail eggs that haven’t yet hatched.

If you hold a snail and feel a pinch, the snail might be trying to take a bite out of you. Snails that do this are often hungry and/or lacking protein in their diet.

Snails eat paper and cardboard

Snails eat paper and cardboard, especially when it’s wet and soggy. One of the main ingredients in paper is cellulose, which comes from trees that snails eat in the wild, so snails are able to digest paper.

But paper and cardboard aren’t natural, high-quality foods for snails – they are low in nutrition and the ink is not healthy for snails to eat.

Snails eat bones

Some snails eat bones and antlers. These are high in calcium, and snails often eat them when they aren’t getting enough calcium from the soil. Snails must make sure they get enough calcium to grow strong shells and keep their shells healthy.

Snails eat fruits

Snails eat most fruits, but citrus fruits are eaten in moderation as too much is poisonous to snails. Snails love to eat the following fruits in gardens and orchards:

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Cucumbers
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Grapes
  • Mangos
  • Melons
  • Mulberries
  • Nectarines
  • Passion fruit
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Plantains
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Tangerines
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelons

Snails eat vegetables

Snails eat most vegetables, including the actual vegetables and the leafy parts of vegetable plants. Their favorite vegetables seem to be dark, leafy salad vegetables like kale, lettuce, spinach and broccoli.

Snails eat the following vegetables:

  • Artichokes
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Butternut squash
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Cress
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Spinach
  • Sweetcorn
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Turnips
  • Zucchini

Snails eat soil

Snails eat soil when it’s rich in calcium. This helps them grow a strong shell and keep their shell healthy. Snails that don’t get enough calcium from soil must eat more of other things to get it, such as leafy vegetables, leaves, wood, fungi, carcasses, bones, snail shells, limestone, walls, and rocks.

One of the main reasons why slugs evolved from snails is so that they don’t need to eat a lot of calcium to maintain a shell. Click here to read all about why slugs don’t have shells and how they survive without one.

How to get rid of snails in your yard

If you want to get rid of snails in your yard, below are the best tips and recommended products from Amazon to get the job done:

  • To make sure you have snails, look for them or look for the shiny, silvery mucus trails they leave behind.
  • If you have snails in your yard, sprinkle these organic snail killer granules to draw them out of hiding and kill them. The good things about these granules are they’re biodegradable, safe to use around pets, children, and wildlife, and are effective in all types of weather (even rain).
  • If you have a problem with snails on certain plants or in certain areas, spray the plant or area with this non-toxic snail repellent made with essential oils. This spray can be used indoors or outdoors, and even around the perimeter of your yard to keep snails out.
  • In the evening, water your garden well and set a beer trap by putting a small plastic bowl in the ground near the plants the snails are eating. Put the bowl deep enough to leave 1 inch above the ground or cover the trap with a loose lid to stop insects from falling in. Fill the bowl halfway with fresh beer. Empty it out and put fresh beer in every night until you no longer find snails in the morning. If you don’t want to make your own beer trap, you can buy beer traps from Amazon.
  • A DIY option is to go out and pick up snails with your hands (I suggest wearing gloves for this). The best time to look for snails is after sunset and rainfall. Throw the snails on the ground and stand on them or crush them with a rock. Or throw them into a bucket of soapy water to drown them.

I'm Monique. I love gardening and spending time in my backyard growing things. Here's where I share what I know about backyard pests and what to do about them, so you can enjoy your yard too.

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Monique loves gardening and spending time in her backyard, where she grows flowers, succulents, herbs, fruits, and vegetables.

Monique spends a lot of time researching how to protect her backyard from harmful pests and trying to attract beneficial insects and animals.

She shares everything that she learns and tests here at Backyard Pests.


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