We love snail shells

my four-year old collects snail shells and I’ve become quite a big fan, too.  I’ve even launched a new snail ‘new home’ card.

In summer 2022, Piglet began collecting snail shells. It started when we found a whole lot of empty shells strewn across a path on an evening walk.  Piglet carried them home in his little fists and put them in our treasure chest.  I got curious as to why there were so many empty snail shells in one spot.  His collection and my learning began!

A year on and Piglet has QUITE the collection.  Dozens, no two the same.  Some from the garden, from the allotment, from several different beaches, from the orchard.  He finds them, I check to see if they are uninhabited, and together we put them in the treasure chest.  There are pink ones, brown ones, grey ones, yellow ones, white ones.  Stripy, shiny, pearly, matte, mottled, spotty, swirly.  

I drew a snail (inhabited) in my sketchbook, and you guys loved it so much that I turned it into a card design. It is the perfect card for a nature lover who is moving house – perhaps the kind of person who is more excited about their new garden than the house itself.  You can find it here: https://hannahlongmuir.co.uk/product/snail-new-home/

It will also feature in the 2024 Wildlife Calendar which is launching at the end of this month.

I knew very little about snails before.  I hadn’t thought about them much.  I knew that they munch your lettuces and leave shiny trails.  If you, like me, are clueless about the life of a snail, then here are some fun snail facts:

– the spirally snail shell is made of calcium carbonate.  It is big enough for the snail to hide its whole body in. 

– baby snails are born with shells and the shells grow with them

– snails don’t have ears!

– snails eat: leaves, stems, bark, rotting things, compost, mushrooms, berries

– most snails live for 2 – 5 years

– they have eye stalks with two pairs of eyes.  The top ones are for seeing and the bottom pair are for tasting to find food.

– a snail travels at 0.5 – 0.8 inches per second.  Without stopping, they would take one week to cover one kilometer.

– the snail courtship process can last 2 – 12 hours

– a single garden snail can have 430 hatchlings

And the answer to my question about why there were so many empty snail shells in one spot on the path through the orchard led me to learn about predators.  Snail threats include: birds, rodents, beetles, parasites and sudden very cold weather.  If you find an empty shell, it is very likely a predator rather than a parasite or climate effect.  Song thrushes, blackbirds and robins can pull the molusc flesh out and eat it without damaging the shell.  Other birds drop the shell on the ground to smash it before pecking away.  Rats make a small hole and suck the snail out.  So the state of the shell when you find it is your major clue to why it is empty.

So, there we are, a year of collecting snail shells together.  Scroll down for some pictures of the collection, my snail sketchbook pages, and the new home card.


snail June sketchbook page Hannah Longmuir
a snail shell collection in a wooden treasure chest
June page of 2024 calendar
September sketchbook Hannah Longmuir
Snail on a Window pencil drawing by Hannah Longmuir
drawings of shells collected on the beach, July 2023, Hannah Longmuir

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