- Published: 13 June 2009
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Terry Holaday, age 8, of Kt,na, Idaho, for is question:
Do snails hibernate?
Slowpoke is very fussy about the weather. If things are not right, he refuses to come outdoors. This is easy for him to do because he carries his house with him wherever he goes. It is the shell on his back and when the weather is not the way he lakes it, he just goes inside and shuts the door.
The garden snail enjoys life in a cool and shady place where the ground is moist. There must also be a soft carpet of grasses, mosses or low growing leaves for him to eat. He cannot abide the bright, dry sunshine and he cannot endure the frosty cold of the winter.
In spite of unfriendly spells of bad weather, many snails live to be two years old. Some survive the coldest of winters when the group is covered with a deep layer of frosty snow. Scene even live in the deserts and manage to live through long droughts of scorching, dry heat.
The garden snails in Idaho live in what we call a temperate zone. The summers are very hot and the winters are very cold. The Idaho summer is no problem to the garden snail, however. This is because there are many summer showers and Mr. Slowpoke does not mind the heat if there is plenty of moisture in the air and if he stays in a shady place. But the Idaho winters are too much for him.
When fall comes, he crawls inside his shell and prepares for the long, deep sleep of hibernation. He builds a papery door over the opening of his shell to seal in some moist air. He may also add a few spikes across his doorway to keep out his enemies. For months he may hibernate in the soil, hidden among the mosses or under a blanket of leaves and snow.
'The desert snail has no winter problems. The weather is warm enough for him to stay busy and there is usually plenty of morning dew to provide him with moisture. His problems strike in the summer when the desert plants are parched. There is no food, no shade and no moisture. The desert snail uses the same method as the Idaho snail uses to solve his winter problems. However, when an animal goes to sleep to protect himself from the summer weather we do not call it hibernation. It is estivation. The Idaho snail hibernates, the desert snail estivates.
A snail can keep busy, even when the weather is very cold or very hot if there is plenty of moisture in the air. Moisture is most important to his skin. If there is not enough moisture in tho air, his skin shrivels up and cracks apart. Very hot weather and very cold weather both take moisture from the air. And when the air is dry Mr. Slowpoke must either hibernate or estivate.