Although snails have eyes, they are blind. They are also totally deaf and rely on their sense of smell to find food. The average garden snail has over 14,000 teeth, which are arranged in rows on their tongue. They eat plants, fruit, vegetables, algae, mushrooms, fungi and sand and soil when seeking calcium to harden their shells.
Snails hibernate during the winter and live on stored fat built up during the summer months. They are nocturnal and don’t like sunlight because it can dry out their bodies. When conditions become too dry, the snail will retreat into its shell and seal the entrance with a parchment-like barrier known as an epiphragm
The garden snail is a hermaphrodite meaning that it possesses both male and female reproductive organs and these are located on the sides of their heads. Although it is able to self-fertilise most snails mate with another snail. Reproduction takes place in early summer and begins with pairing and courtship. After a period in which the pair caress each other with their tentacles, each snail pierces the skin of its partner with a spiny projection called a ‘love dart’. This ‘love dart’ is believed to be the inspiration for the ‘cupid love arrow’ myth. The function of this love dart is unclear, but it is thought that the mucus may act to improve the survival of sperm. Love darts are only made in sexually mature animals. Mating (lasting 4 – 12 hours) then takes place; each snail inserts its penis into its partner at the same time. The snails separate, and the sperm is stored internally until the eggs are ripe. After the eggs have been fertilised, the snails dig a pit in the soil in which to lay the eggs (usually around 85). After 15 days, the eggs hatch. The hatchlings have translucent and delicate shells.