Snails lay a lot of eggs. If you’ve found some eggs in your yard, you’ll want to know if these belong to snails or not. So what do snail eggs look like?
Garden snails lay clusters of white- or cream-colored eggs that are semi-transparent. The eggs are quite round or oval in shape, 1/8 of an inch wide (3-5 mm), and they’re soft and squishy like gelatin so they don’t look like perfect circles. A snail egg cluster is protected by snail mucus and soil.
It’s important to act quickly if you have snails laying eggs on your property because a snail can lay over 400 eggs a year. Hatched baby snails grow up quickly to each start laying another 400 eggs every year. And soon things are out of control.
Let’s find out more about what snail eggs need to hatch, where to find them, and how to get rid of them quickly and easily.
What garden snail eggs look like
The color of snail eggs depends on the type of snail, but most garden snails lay white- or cream-colored eggs. As time passes, the eggs may start showing dark flecks as the baby snails develop inside.
Snail eggs look a lot like white fertilizer pellets that you find in commercial composts and potting soil. But fertilizer pellets are hard while snail eggs are soft and pop when squeezed between the fingers. Snail eggs are also smaller and paler, or more see-through, than fertilizer pellets.
Everything snails do when they lay eggs is done to protect the eggs and give them the best chance to survive and hatch.
Garden snails usually lay their eggs on the ground, hidden under leaves, stone, or other debris. Snails often use their muscular foot body to dig a hole in loose, damp soil to lay eggs in. These holes are 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 – 4 cm) deep.
Snails prefer to lay eggs in calcium-rich soil because young snails need to eat a lot of calcium to grow strong shells. Snails also look for soil that is about 80% damp and maintains a temperature of around 70 °F (21 °C) when they need to lay eggs.
Snail eggs must be kept moist and warm enough to develop properly. If the eggs get too dry, they shrivel up. If the eggs get too hot, they die. If the soil temperature gets too cold, they develop slower than usual. And if the soil temperature drops below 40 °F (5 °C), the eggs stop growing.
A cluster of garden snail eggs is covered in a slimy, gooey mucus to help the eggs stick to each other and the hole where they were laid. This is for their own protection, so they don’t roll away or get blown away by the wind.
Insects, bugs and other creatures also lay eggs in soil, such as beetles, worms, and soil mites. This can make it difficult to tell if you have found snail eggs or if the eggs come from something else.
- Beetle eggs are more elongated than snail eggs.
- Soil mite eggs are much smaller than snail eggs – so small that you probably won’t see them with the naked eye.
- But worm eggs, especially beneficial earthworm eggs, look very much like snail eggs. Worms lay eggs in yellowish-brown cocoons, which can be a telltale sign that you have worms and not snails. But the only major difference between the two types of eggs is that worm eggs are more elongated or stretched out than rounder snail eggs.
Snail reproduction and egg hatching
Garden snails are hermaphrodites, which means they have both male and female reproductive organs.
A single snail can reproduce on its own, without a mate, as garden snails can make and fertilize their own eggs. So snails get to choose if they want to mate with another snail or reproduce alone.
Most snails choose to mate with another snail. After mating, both snails are able to lay eggs because each snail fertilized the other snail’s eggs.
A snail is pregnant for a few days, usually 3 to 6 days, before laying a cluster of eggs. The average garden snail lays 85 eggs in a cluster, and these eggs hatch after 2 to 4 weeks if they are kept moist and at the right soil temperature of around 70 °F (21 °C).
After a year or two, the hatched snails start laying their own eggs.
The following quick video shows a baby snail hatching from its shell. See how it immediately eats its eggshell for nutrition and calcium?
As you might have noticed in the video, snails are born with small soft shells on their backs. Click here to find out why snails have shells but slugs don’t.
The happier a snail is living in your yard the more eggs that snail will lay there. If the temperature is steady, there’s enough humidity in the air and moisture in the soil, and you have loose, chalky soil with lots of calcium in it, a snail will easily lay a cluster of 85 eggs every 4 to 6 weeks.
Most garden snails lay an average of 5 or 6 egg clusters per year.
Let’s do the math:
When the weather gets too dry or too cold, snails seal themselves off in their shell or go into hibernation and stop laying eggs for a while.
What eats snail eggs
It may sound like snails lay a lot of eggs – and they do – but many eggs never hatch because:
- A lot of snail eggs are eaten by predators, such as chickens, ducks, firefly larvae, frogs, ground beetles, hedgehogs, moles, nematodes, sciomyzidae flies, shrews, snakes, songbirds, toads, and turtles.
- Snails eat their own eggs and babies. Yes, snails are cannibals. They start by eating the shells of hatched eggs for food and calcium, and if they’re still hungry or malnourished, they’ll eat the babies too.
- Newly hatched snails eat the other snail eggs. Young snails need a lot of calcium to grow strong shells and keep their body healthy. The first thing a hatched snail does is eat its own shell for a calcium boost. After this, newly hatched snails often eat unhatched shells in the egg cluster.
- Many eggs get washed away in rainy weather or by sprinklers. They soon die without the protection of the soil and mucus.
- Many eggs don’t stay moist enough and dry out before they can hatch. It’s estimated that about 90% of snail eggs are killed by dry weather.
How to get rid of snail eggs in soil
There are many ways to get rid of snail eggs and keep the snail population in your yard under control. Below are the best tips and products from Amazon to help you get rid of snail eggs in soil:
- Don’t make your soil snail egg-friendly. If you ever dig or work in your soil, rake and pat the soil closed so there are no cracks or holes in the surface. Snails love laying eggs in loose soil that has pits in it, where their eggs are protected from the elements.
- Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the perimeter of your property to stop snails from coming in. This earth is too rough for snails to cross with their soft, slimy body.
- Near the end of winter, turn your soil to expose any snail eggs overwintering under the surface. The eggs will soon freeze, dry out, or get eaten, and they won’t hatch when spring arrives.
- If your soil is overrun by snail eggs, stop watering your yard and let the soil dry out completely in early fall. This will kill any eggs in the soil because snail eggs must stay moist to survive.
- Clean up your yard – remove mulch, especially bark, dead leaves, pick up wood and logs, empty pots, and remove anything else where snails could be hiding or laying eggs. Keep your yard clear of all much and debris until you get the snails under control.
- If you have a lot of snails in your yard, set a trap for them by placing a piece of cardboard or a wooden board on top of some small stones on damp soil. Make sure the board is high enough for snails to climb under. Each morning, go out and collect the snails and eggs you find under the board. The trick to making this work is consistency – keep doing it daily until you no longer find snails or eggs under the board. Here are 10 things to do with the snails you collect.
- If you’re sure you have found snail eggs in your soil, scoop them up, put them in a plastic bag, and squash them before they hatch or drop them in soapy or salty water. Go back to that spot every month to see if you find any new eggs laid there.
- Rotate the crops in your yard so snails don’t have a chance to establish themselves there.
- Attract natural predators to your yard, such as songbirds and frogs. They will quickly get the snail population under control for you without the use of chemicals or baits.
- If you can’t find and kill all the eggs, you can still kill the snails laying the eggs with these organic snail killer granules. They’re biodegradable, safe to use around pets, children, and wildlife, and work in all weather. Put some granules in a plastic cup and lay the cup down on its side to keep the pellets dry. Or sprinkle the pellets around your yard where you know snails are active at night.