Snail Invasion

by Dana Little 4/27/2012

Large snails known as Chinese Mystery Snails have invaded Taylor Pond.  Found normally in Southeast Asia, Japan and eastern Russia, people first brought these snails to San Francisco in 1892 for the Asian food market.  They released the snails into local streams to provide a supply of these edible snails.  They quickly spread and were found in Boston as early as 1915.  They have been reported in at least 35 other towns in the state but not previously in Taylor Pond.    They spread easily and have been found attached to boats and inside bait buckets.  People in the aquarium trade use the snail for cleaning algae off glass and sometimes release them into ponds.

Invasive Mystery Snails

Two Mystery Snails with a smaller native species.

This snail thrives at temperatures from 34-80 degrees, just the range we typically see in Taylor Pond.  They tend to live in shallow water plowing shallow grooves as they burrow just below the surface of the mud.  They migrate to deeper water to winter over.  They are about the size of a large walnut and have a brownish greenish shell.  When stressed they have a trapdoor (operculum) that they shut and can survive extreme heat, cold and most pesticides intended to kill them.  They feed on algae and microorganisms found in the mud.  Their toughness and willingness to eat rotting organic matter has yielded a large population in Taylor Pond.  Fortunately crows and diving ducks enjoy eating them.  On Sabattus Pond I have often observed ducks (Lesser Scaup) swallowing these snails in one large gulp.

A single female snail can produce over a hundred babies, each of which can live up to 5 years.  When they die they may wash up on shore where they produce a foul odor.  According to the US Geological Service website this species “has exerted no recorded impacts in the Great Lakes and is considered relatively benign.”  So rest easy and enjoy some escargots fried with garlic and wine sauce.