When I was 10 years old, my family decided to get snails to get rid of the algae in our fish tank. We bought three snails to start, but before we knew it there were about 200 snails that had taken over our fish tank. The sight of this many snails overwhelming my fish tank was instrumental in bringing to light the issue of snail overpopulation.
Snails are important to the ecosystems they live in, there is no doubt about it. Virginia Cooperative Extension reports on May 1, 2009, that snails are useful in controlling the growth of algae and are an important source of food for other wildlife. However, this source also reports that in just the rivers of the American Southeast, the population of snails is in the millions, a truly astonishing number considering what it means for the snail population worldwide.
Snails have the ability to produce many offspring at a time, and to reproduce fairly quickly. SFGate reports on June 2, 2007 that most snails lay about 90 eggs at a time.
University of California at Santa Barbara reports on May 17, 2011 that these eggs will hatch in just two to four weeks, and will separate from their parents after only about three months.
With the already high population of snails, and their ability to reproduce in large quantities, the snail population will likely increase immensely in the coming years. This could be detrimental, considering the damage that snails can cause.
According to University of California Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in November of 2009, snails prefer to eat seedlings and herbaceous plants, as well as ripening fruits. These tendencies lead the University of California IPM to label them as some of the most “bothersome pests.”
Furthermore, the Telegraph reports on May 16, 2014 that about 20 percent of gardeners in the United Kingdom have admitted to throwing snails into their neighbours’ gardens. So, while snails do have some ecological benefits, they are a great pest to gardeners, and will remain so unless their population is diminished.
Snails, however, can be more than a nuisance to gardeners. While their eating habits help to minimize the bad effects of algae, they can also be damaging to plants that are good for the ecosystem.
The Sun Sentinel reported on September 27, 2014, that a snail invasion threatened a restoration project in the Everglades. The source says snails “overwhelmed a stormwater treatment area” and “devoured pollution-filtering plants.” This incident raised concern over snails spreading further into the Everglades and also cost taxpayers almost $2 billion dollars.
While the diversity of the snail population should be preserved for both ecological and ethical purposes, it would be beneficial to put more resources toward finding a way to inhibit snail reproduction. This would ensure that snails could still perform their important role in the ecosystem without detrimentally overwhelming it.
Snails, are slow-moving, fairly small creatures. Individually, they are not intimidating but they find their strength in numbers. It is when these numbers grow too large that the snail population can be dangerous, which is exactly why the snail population must be controlled.