Spotlight on... Cheese Snail

Cheese snail © Brian Eversham

Cheese Snail (Helicodonta obvoluta)

This small flat-shelled terrestrial snail came to our attention because we were impressed that young snails and some adults are “hairy”. They have 1mm long hairs all over their shell. They are found in deciduous and mixed forests/woods mainly on and in fallen dead trees and leaf litter where they feed and lay their eggs. Although mainly found in continental Europe, there are a few isolated populations in the South of England, perhaps remnants from an earlier larger population.

You are probably wondering why these snails are hairy, particularly the juveniles. There are various theories! Firstly, it is thought to help with humidity control and water retention which is particularly important for small animals. Secondly, it might also help them stick to dead leaves, which they eat. Finally it could provide some protective camouflage because small particles get stuck to the hairs and help break up a snail’s outline. Adult snails sometimes retain their “baby hairs” but often you can just see the scars of where they were on the shell surface.

Where are Cheese Snails?

The NBN Atlas shows a distribution in the UK which is mainly from north of Salisbury, across the South Downs to near Brighton. There are also records for the Surrey Hills Area and one in Gloucestershire. TVERC and the NBN have no records, but are they in the TVERC area but not yet been found? There’s plenty of woodland where they could be hiding out. Why not in the Chilterns, West Berkshire and Wychwood?

Have you seen any Cheese Snails?

So, here’s a lockdown challenge for all snail spotters and lovers of messing around in leaf litter and dead wood. Can you be the first to find a cheese snail and report it to TVERC??

By letting TVERC know what you have seen you will help protect and improve your local environment by increasing the quality and quantity of data we hold. 

Absence records are also very useful, so also let us know if you’ve been out and haven’t seen anything!

Your records can inform a variety of exciting biodiversity projects and help people make informed decisions about how to develop and manage land sustainably. We are a ‘not for profit’ organisation so rely on valuable help from skilled volunteers to improve our database.

Where should we direct our spotlight next?

If you are a recorder, a local recording group or just have an interest in a species, send us your suggestion for a species, along with some facts and a photo (if possible) to