Sunday 19 May
Garden snail (Helix aspersa)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Garden snail fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Garden snail description
A very common and widespread species, the garden snail is the typical snail you will find in a British garden (1). The shell of the garden snail is generally spherical in shape with a short spire and a 'wrinkled' surface (3). It is pale brown or yellow in colour (3), and is marked with a number of broken dark bands that give the shell a blotched appearance (2). The thickened lip around the large opening, or 'aperture', of the shell is white in colour (2).Top
Garden snail biology
Although the garden snail is mainly nocturnal, it will emerge during the day after rain. It moves by means of a muscular foot; the mucus secreted by the foot aids with movement and leaves a tell-tale track behind. It feeds on a range of plant matter and can be serious pests of gardens (4). This snail has a strong homing instinct and spends the day, often in large groups, beneath stones and other structures. It hibernates through the winter in similar locations (5).
The garden snail is a hermaphrodite, meaning that it possesses both male and female reproductive organs; although it is able to self-fertilise, most snails mate with another snail (4). Reproduction takes place in early summer and begins with pairing and courtship. After a period in which the members of the pair caress each other with their tentacles, each snail pierces the skin of its partner with a calcareous 'love dart', a spiny projection which is covered in mucus. The function of this love dart is unclear, but it is thought that the mucus may act to improve the survival of sperm. Mating then takes place; each snail inserts its penis into its partner at the same time (6). The snails separate, and the sperm is stored internally until the eggs are ripe. After the eggs have been fertilised, the snails dig pits in the soil in which to lay the eggs (5). Hatchlings have translucent, delicate shells (4).
The garden snail is edible, and snail farming is currently a booming cottage industry in Britain. This species has also been used for centuries in traditional medicine, for example, broth made from the mucus was used to treat sore throats (7).Top
Garden snail range
The garden snail is found throughout most of lowland Britain (1). Elsewhere, it has a wide distribution, and is found across the Mediterranean area, in parts of western Europe, North Africa, and Turkey (2). It has also been widely introduced and has become established in some areas of the USA (4).Top
Garden snail habitat
The garden snail is often associated with humans, and can be found in parks and gardens. It also inhabits woods, hedgerows and dunes (3).Top
Garden snail status
The garden snail is common and widespread (2).Top
Garden snail threats
The garden snail is not currently threatened.Top
Garden snail conservation
Conservation action has not been targeted at the garden snail.Top
Find out more
Discover more about invertebrates and their conservation:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
- Containing free calcium carbonate, chalky.
- Possessing both male and female sex organs.
- Hibernation is a winter survival strategy characteristic of some mammals in which an animal’s metabolic rate slows down and a state of deep sleep is attained. Whilst hibernating, animals survive on stored reserves of fat that they have accumulated in summer. In insects, the correct term for hibernation is ‘diapause’, a temporary pause in development and growth. Any stage of the lifecycle (eggs, larvae, pupae or adults) may enter diapause, which is typically associated with winter.
- Active at night.
- Fusion of male and female sex cells (gametes) from one individual. In contrast, in cross-fertilisation, two different individuals are involved.
National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (March, 2003)
- Pfleger, V. and Chatfield, J. (1983) A guide to snails of Britain and Europe. The Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd., London.
- Kerney, M.P. and Cameron, R.A.D. (1979) A field guide to the land snails of Britain and north west Europe. William Collins Sons and Co. Ltd., London.
Brown garden snail: University of Florida Department of Entomology and Nematology (March, 2003)
- Janus, H. (1982) The Illustrated Guide to Molluscs. Harold Starke Ltd., London.
- Koene, J.M. and Chase, R. (1998) Changes in the reproductive system of the snail Helix aspersa caused by mucus from the love dart. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 201: 2313-2319.
- Buczacki, S. (2002) Fauna Britannica. Hamlyn, London.
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.