Why Are There Empty Snail Shells in My Garden? | Top 5 Reasons

Empty snail shells can end up in your garden if snails have been eaten by predators including rodents, beetles, birds, lizards or frogs. Snails can also die and leave their shells due to weather changes or if they have been attacked by parasites.

Read on to find out 5 top reasons why there are empty snail shells in your garden.

5 Reasons There Are Empty Snail Shells in Your Yard

1. Parasites

Parasitic snail infections can happen, and they often affect all of the snails in your garden, killing them all eventually. Once the snails die, their bodies shrivel up and leave only empty shells behind.

If their bodies end up remaining in the shells, which sometimes happens, it is possible for other animals to come and eat the bodies, both of which leave only empty shells in your garden.

Smaller creatures such as ants are the ones that come behind and eat whatever is in the shells.

2. Rodents

Rats are notorious for eating snails out of their shells, and they are very efficient at it. First, the rats bite through the shell and make a small hole in it. Then they suck the snails out of the shells, leaving nothing behind except an empty shell.

They do this quickly, so don’t be surprised if you look under your decking or similar places and find dozens of empty snail shells one day. While many people don’t believe rats can eliminate snails, this is actually not that uncommon.

3. Beetles

Beetles are small creatures that just happen to love using their claw to pick the snail out of the shell. They usually don’t damage the shell itself, but the result is the same: lots of empty snail shells found in your garden.

You can often tell that beetles are the culprit because the shells are left perfectly intact every time.

4. Birds

The interesting thing about birds is that not all of them use the same method when eating snails. Gulls found near shorelines have learned to drop the shells from high distances in order to crush them before eating the snails.

Birds such as robins and blackbirds will swoop down as the snail is sticking out of its shell and grab it quickly, usually without damaging the shell.

In most cases, however, birds smash and peck to get the snail out of the shell, so if you see a few empty shells and a bunch of smashed and broken ones, birds might be the reason why.

5. Changes in the Weather

In addition to pests and predators, the weather can affect snails. For instance, when there is a sudden cold snap, lots of snails can die at the same time, which means lots of empty shells will soon take their place.

Keep in mind that empty shells can take up to ten years to disintegrate after the death of the snail. This means that finding tons of empty snail shells throughout the years isn’t that uncommon.

Do Snails Abandon Their Shells?

Snails do not abandon their shells. Their shells are attached to them at all times, so wherever they go, their shells go.

Snails’ shells are with them from the very beginning of their development and actually grow with them in a spiral shape. If you notice a snail without a shell, it is not exactly a snail but is actually a slug instead. Slugs are close cousins of snails, but they do not have shells.

What Happens to a Snail When the Shell is Empty?

Anytime you find a snail shell with no snail in it, the snail is dead. This could be because pests have eaten them or because they have been hit with a disease, but all snail shells had real snails in them at some point.

There are many reasons why the snail is no longer there, but rest assured it has been killed by something and is no longer alive.

Are Snails with Shells Good for the Garden?

While snails can wreak havoc on your garden and love to eat different plants, there are actually a few benefits to having them in your garden. They include the following:

  1. They are a food source for animals such as toads, newts, blackbirds, hedgehogs, and many others. All those animals help keep the snail population in check.
  2. Some people believe snails can predict the weather. If they start crawling up a tree, for instance, the chances are good that there is hot weather ahead.
  3. They love munching on dead organic matter, including decaying leaves and plants. This, in turn, supports healthy soil that you can then use for other things.
  4. They will even eat the eggs of other snails and slugs, which ensures their numbers don’t get too high.

Is It Bad to Have Snails in Your Garden?

Snails can be bad in your garden because they have hefty appetites and will eat the leaves and roots of various plants. What makes it worse is the fact that they do most of this eating at night, which makes it a little more difficult to put a stop to them.

Fortunately, there are both chemical and natural solutions to this problem, so it shouldn’t be difficult to keep them under control.

Why Do I Have Lots of Snails in My Garden?

There are numerous reasons why snails are prevalent in your garden. Keep in mind that snails love dark and moist places, so it’s not unusual for them to hide in your garden soil.

Gardens also tend to have places nearby that are also damp and dark, such as decking, wooden fencing, and so forth, and snails will naturally crawl to these locations as well.


Empty snail shells are not that uncommon in your garden, and they’re usually there due to the snails being eaten, being killed by a disease, or due to changes in the weather. While it might be inconvenient to see empty shells in your garden, it is usually not difficult to get rid of them.