8 Surprising Snail Facts You Should Know

Learn about these hard-shelled critters with our collection of snail facts. Discover how snails eat, where they get their shells and more.

What Do Snails Eat?

gardening problems with snails at lunch on hostasWILLSIE/Getty Images
Snails eating hosta leaves

Snails aren’t too picky when it comes to meals. They’ll eat pretty much whatever they can find, from plant matter to animal waste (and, in some cases, even other snails). Like learning about snail facts? You’ll love learning facts about fireflies, too.

Do Snails Have Teeth?

Snails do have teeth—a whole lot of them. Through a structure called a “radula” in their mouths, snails pry off pieces of what they’re eating and further break it down. The radula features up to 12,000 teeth, which is… a whole lot. Not keen on those teeth being used on your garden? Here’s how to get rid of slugs and snails.

How Long Do Snails Sleep?

Snails do sleep, but they do so quite a bit differently from humans. A typical snail sleep cycle lasts a few days (usually 2 to 4), although in some instances snails have slept for years. After that, a snail can stay awake for longer than a full day. Snails are nocturnal, meaning they typically come out at night, just like moths.

Is a Snail an Insect?

It might be tempting to categorize a snail as an insect, what with the antennae and all. But snails aren’t part of the same family as the bugs in your yard. Instead, they’re mollusks, a group that also includes slugs, octopi, and squid.

Ladybugs are insects, though! Check out these fascinating ladybug facts.

How Do Snails Get Their Shells?

Garden Snail crawling on brown stone.Simone O'Brien/Getty Images
Garden snail crawling on a stone

One of the greatest snail mysteries is its shell. Where does it come from? You might be surprised to learn that snails never “switch” shells, and they rarely (if ever) leave them. Snails are born with their shells. As the snail grows, the shell grows too. The shell is an integral part of the creature and essential for its survival. Without it, the snail risks drying out. Snails can even repair damage to them!

Difference Between Slugs vs Snails

While they’re part of the same family and are both part of the gastropod class, slugs and snails are not technically the same. Beyond the obvious (one has a shell, one doesn’t), they tend to live in different habitats as a result of their differently shaped bodies.

How Fast Do Snails Move?

how to get rid of slugs and snailsEvan Sklar/Getty Images
A snail slinks along the edge of a terra cotta pot.

If you wanted to race a snail, you wouldn’t have a hard time winning. Not known for their speediness, snails move at a pace of just over three feet, or one meter, in an hour.

What Does “Snail Mail” Mean?

It’s not abundantly clear who first said the term “snail mail,” but we do know why it joined the popular lexicon. As email rose as a popular form of communication, a term was needed to distinguish electronic mail from physical mail, and thus, “snail mail” was coined.

After you’re done looking at snail facts, check out extraordinary facts about bird eggs.

Emily Hannemann
Emily Hannemann is an associate editor for Birds & Blooms Digital. Throughout her years with the publication, she has written multiple articles for print as well as digital, all covering birding and gardening. In her role as associate editor, she is responsible for creating and editing articles on the subject of birding and gardening, as well as putting together Birds & Bloom's daily digital newsletter. After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a master's degree in magazine journalism and undergraduate degrees in journalism and English, she has more than eight years of experience in the magazine, newspaper, and book industries.