Published on Saturday, 13 June 2009 23:03
Nancy Smith, age 8, of Visalia, Calif., forte. her question:
How long do snail eggs take to hatch?
A baby garden snail has two parents, but they are not around to welcome the tiny creature when it hatches from its egg. Chances are, though, it will not be lonely. There may be ten, twenty or even fifty baby snails hatching at the same time from the same brood of eggs.
Snail eggs are soft and round and pasty white. It would take five or six or even more of them to fill a hollow pea. Sometimes twenty or more are left together in a nest down in the moist, crumbly soil. Sometimes the mother snail leaves her eggs behind as she crawls along on her slow, slippery path. If you follow her silvery trail, you may find two small eggs together and a few inches farther along there may be two or three more.
The mother snail just leaves her batch of eggs and goes on her way. Many of the unprotected little eggs are eaten by insects, birds and other hungry creatures. The longer they stay in the egg stage, the more likely they are to get eaten. The sooner the eggs hatch, the sooner the tiny snails can crawl away to safety.
If all goes well, a batch of snail eggs should hatch in about a week. But there is no set time for hatching day. If the weather is hot and dry or if the ground is frozen, the eggs may not hatch for several weeks. Meantime, inside each little round egg, an unborn snail is getting ready to hatch.
When the great day arrives, each tiny creature breaks out of his egg shell. If you are watching and have very sharp eyes, you will see that the bat d snail is a miniature copy of a garden snail. He even has the beginnings of a tiny shell on his back, though at first the shell is clear as glass.
The baby snail, of course,is hungry but he is too young to go searching for the leaves and vegetables that he will be eating later.
His first meal is right there for him. It is the egg shell he just left behind him. This soft egg shell contains lime and other minerals and the body of the baby snail knows just what to do with them. The food is used to strengthen the glassy shell on the young snail’s back. This shell will be his house for the rest of his life and soon after his first meal it turns dark. ns he grows, his shell house grows with him and when he gets to be a very old snail of two years, he may have added five graceful whorls to the house he carries on his back.
The family life of the garden snail is very unusual. A pair of snails meet to start a brood of youngsters. But both parents will lay a bath of eggs. Each parent is the mother of the eggs it lays .. but is also the father of the eggs laid by the other parent. Each grown snail is both a mother and a father.