Dateline: June 15, 2012*
Most people cringe with the mention of snails in the garden. Often terrestrial snails are given a bad rap. In Florida we have about 140 native and exotic snail and slug species. Most land snails are not pests. They feed on algae and fungi. Most Florida snails are small, seldom noticed, and do not feed on plants.
With regard to snails in general:
“Only a very little part of them is edible or a garden pest. Much more there are numerous snail species in our gardens, which not only are not pests but even are quite useful, in that they eat other snails or their eggs, they return wilted plant parts to the circulation of nature or they help in the manufacture of compost.”
What gives these snails a bad name is that they are often confused with slugs, which do eat your plants and cause damage. In walks (creeps? crawls?) the Rosy Wolfsnail (Euglandina rosea) a mollusc native to Florida. This beneficial is predatory on other snails.
The Rosy Wolfsnail uses two ways to dine on other snails. In one, it grasps, and consumes the intended prey alive. Alternately when eating smaller snails, it swallows the prey AND its shell.
In its native range which consists of Southeastern Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and widespread in Florida including the Keys (University of Florida 2009), the snail does not interfere with the balance of nature.
Unfortunately, this snail was introduced to control the giant African land snail in certain Pacific Rim countries where they wound up also eating the native snails. This is an important lesson in why exotic species should not be introduced outside their native range. They can overpower native species resulting in their demise. The Rosy Wolfsnail is now an invasive species in that area.
Since I live in Florida, the Rosy Wolfsnail is a welcome visitor to my garden.
*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on June 15, 2012 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.