If you’ve found snails in your grass, you might be wondering what attracted them to your grass in the first place…
You have snails in your grass because the conditions are right for snails to thrive there: the grass is watered often and the area stays damp; there are cool, shady spots for snails to hide in and sleep during the day; there is food nearby for snails to eat at night.
Knowing what damage these snails can cause and how to get rid of them can go a long way in dealing with these backyard pests. Let’s start by finding out if the snails are here to stay and if they plan to eat your grass.
Do snails live in grass?
When it comes to living in a yard, snails prefer to spend their days sleeping under rocks, logs, boards, plant pots, or anywhere else they feel safe enough to hide and not be eaten or stood on. Snails don’t usually live in grass, but they will if the conditions are right and they can’t find a better place to call home.
If snails choose to live in grass, they prefer shady spots that don’t get too much sun or wind, grassy areas that are watered often and stay quite damp, and a bonus is cut grass or fallen leaves to hide under.
If there are bare patches of loose soil in the lawn, snails might visit these bare patches to lay their eggs in the soil.
Do snails eat grass?
Snails sometimes eat freshly seeded or newly sprouted grass but not established lawns. Young grass is soft and tender enough for snails to chew and digest, and it’s easier to crawl over with a snail’s soft body. As grass gets older, it becomes rougher to the touch and harder to digest, so snails won’t eat it.
And the reason why this happens is quite fascinating…
For grass to grow and mature its roots must suck up water and minerals from the soil. One of the things grass gets from soil is silica, which is one of the main components in glass. Silica is rough and sharp, and mature grass has 10 to 20 times more silica in it than other plants growing in your yard.
Young, tender grass doesn’t have much or any silica in it. Snails find this type of grass easier to eat, and whatever isn’t digested is released as snail poop from the snail’s shell.
Researchers* aren’t sure why mature grass stores so much silica in its leaf blades, but they do know that all this silica can make grass rough to the touch and difficult for animals, insects, and mollusks (snails and slugs) to chew and digest.
Snails probably don’t eat mature grass because they don’t want to wear down their thousands of teeth trying to cut through rough grass. Also, snails don’t want to crawl over abrasive blades of grass with their soft, sensitive body, so they simply avoid lawns.
Snails can’t break down and absorb silica in their body, so grass isn’t easy to digest and it doesn’t give snails much nutrition. Snails would much rather eat something else in your yard that’s nourishing and easy for them to digest, even if it’s paper.
A study was carried out where young snails were raised on a grass-only diet. The snails didn’t eat very much and would rather go hungry than feast on the grass given to them. As a result, they didn’t grow as big or as strong as other snails that ate a healthy, varied diet that didn’t include grass. This tells us that snails don’t like eating grass
Are snails bad for grass
Snails are bad for young grass that’s seeded or is just sprouting because snails will eat it. Snails don’t eat mature lawns. In fact, snails can do good things for established grass because they clean up dead organic materials and put nutrients back into the soil that feed the grass and keep it strong.
Many people have problems with their lawn and think that snails are causing the damage, but this is rarely the case.
If you find snails in mature grass they could be a sign that something else is wrong – like a fungal disease running through your lawn. If this is the case, you might find yellow, thin, or dead patches of grass in your lawn. These are not caused by snails but by the fungus itself.
Make sure your grass is getting enough water and apply a broad spectrum fungicide (Amazon link) to kill the fungus that might be taking over the lawn.
If this doesn’t help, there are probably insects chewing on and killing your grass, such as grubs or caterpillars. If this is the case, then you need to use turf insecticide, like this one from Amazon, to kill them off.
How to tell if snails are eating your grass
Snails eat young grass the same way they eat leaves, so you will find the same signs of damage on grass as you do on leaves.
The following are all signs that snails are eating your young and tender grass:
- You see snails on the growing grass. If you suspect snails are eating your lawn but you want to be sure, go out at night with a flashlight and look for them where your grass is being eaten
- There are slimy, silvery trails on the grass or on stones and paving nearby, especially in the morning
- There are ragged holes in the middle of the blades of grass. This isn’t always obvious on narrow blades of grass, so look for these ragged holes on the leaves of nearby plants
- You find half-moon/concave holes around the edges of the grass blades, with the holes getting bigger over time
- There are thin lines scraped out of the blades of grass
- Your grass is being eaten in early spring, before other insects come out for the summer. Snails are most active in spring and summer, but many snails hibernate in areas with cold winters and you shouldn’t see any damage from snails when temperatures drop a lot
How to get rid of snails in grass
The following tips and products from Amazon will help you get rid of snails in your grass:
- Snails love moisture so try to keep your lawn as dry as possible. Keep the grass short and aerated. Water less frequently but more deeply – water once or twice a week in the morning, so the soil dries out by the time the snails wake up in the evening. If possible, switch to a drip irrigation system until the snails have moved out.
- In late fall or early spring, rake the soil to remove debris and expose snail eggs lying in the ground. Do this on a sunny day so the sun kills the eggs for you and they don’t hatch.
- Snail bodies are soft and sensitive so snails don’t like crawling over rough surfaces. Sprinkle rough diatomaceous earth in the grass where snails are a problem. This method works well to keep snails away, but any rain or water will wash the earth away and you’ll need to reapply it.
- Cut down tree branches and remove anything that’s casting shadows and making cool, shady areas on your lawn. Snails can’t spend too much time in very hot, sunny spots as they will die.
- Collect the snails by hand. Lay a piece of cardboard or wood on some bricks or small rocks above damp soil, leaving enough space for snails to crawl under it. In the morning, flip over the board and collect the snails sleeping under it. Click here for a list of 10 things to do with snails collected from your yard.
- If you can’t crush snails, sprinkle these organic snail killer granules around the grassy area. The granules are biodegradable, safe to use around pets, children, and wildlife, and work in all weather. If you do want to keep them dry in the rain, put some granules into a plastic cup and lay the cup down on its side. The snails can still get to them but there is some protection from water.
- Attract birds and frogs to your yard. They eat snails and will quickly reduce the number of snails in your grass.
- Remove mulch or debris from around your yard. These attract snails by giving snails places to hide and things to eat. Pick up boards, logs, empty pots, garden waste, stones, bricks, and anything else that snails might be hiding in or eating.