Snails in the garden

Organic Snail Control: How To Control Garden Snails

Garden snails are kissing cousins to the nefarious slug that also terrorizes gardens. The common garden snail will chew through the tender leaves of plants, which at best, looks unsightly, and at worst, will kill the plant. If these little buggers have had you asking yourself, “How to control garden snails?” then you are at the right place. We will be looking at effective snail repellents and organic snail control.

What is the Common Garden Snail?

Chances are, if you have snails in your garden, it is the common garden snail, also called the brown garden snail. The scientific name is Helix aspersa. The common garden snail can be identified by its brown rounded shell and grey body.

How to Control Garden Snails

Here are the most common methods for getting rid of snails in the garden:

Introduce predators – One effective organic snail control is to introduce or encourage predators. Make your garden friendly to small snakes, like the garter snake. These snakes enjoy eating garden snails as well as other common garden pests. You can also introduce decollate snails to your garden. Decollate snails will not harm your plants but will eat the common garden snail.

Lay down grit – Many gritty substances make effective snail repellents. Gritty substances will cut the body of the snail, which will lead to it being injured. Crushed eggshells, sand or diatomaceous earth sprinkled around plants that the garden snails seem to prefer will deter and eventually kill these pests.

Set out traps – A common snail trap is the beer pan. Simply fill a shallow pan with beer and leave it out overnight. The snails will be attracted to the beer and will drown in it. The beer will need to replaced every few days to remain effective.

Another trap is to find a flat object than can provide a dark, cool, moist location. Snails love dark, cool, moist areas. You can use a board, a piece of carpet, or thick cloth to create this environment. Water an area, then lay the object down over the damp area. Return in a few days and pick up the object. You can harvest and destroy the hiding snails.

Barriers – Among effective snail repellents is barriers. This organic snail control means putting something in the path of the snails that they do not like. Copper wire, Vaseline, even just mesh curved outwards will help repel garden snails from your plants.

Now that you know more about how to control garden snails in your garden with these effective snail repellents and organic snail control, you can make sure that those slimy little buggers never bother your plants again.

How to Get Rid of Garden Slugs and Snails

Slugs and snails are closely related, though slugs lack visible shells. These pests share the same modes of operation. They usually limit daylight excursions to dark, cloudy days. On sunny days, you’ll find them hiding in garden debris, under boards or in similar moist places. Most slug and snail damage occurs after dark. Large, irregular holes in leaves or petals, and succulent stems snipped in half, signal an invasion is underway. Silvery, slimy trails of drying mucus offer conclusive evidence.
Snail and slug activity peaks during warm, moderate weather. Favorite targets of these pests include moist shade and vegetable gardens, where they feast on leaves and low-lying fruit. A single night’s damage can devastate ornamental foliage plants and leave vegetable plants irreparable. During cold weather, snails and slugs retreat into soil. Hot, dry weather slows them down, but in moderate climates, especially coastal areas, snails and slugs stay active year-round.

Know Your Options

For many years, gardeners had few choices when it came to effective slug and snail baits. Active ingredients in long-standing products kill these pests quickly, but some give off food-like odors attractive to animals, and can, if ingested, endanger pets and wildlife. The generation of baits that followed — based on different ingredients — are effective, but they can take many days to work.
Today, many gardeners are choosing highly effective products that are based on a chelated iron compound known as sodium ferric EDTA. These options stop slugs and snails with much smaller amounts and don’t present the same hazards to animals. AMDRO Snail Block Slug & Snail Killer and CORRY’S Slug & Snail Killer for example, can be used around all types of plants in beds, greenhouses and lawns, and even in vegetable gardens right up to harvest day. A big benefit of these products is that people and pets can reenter treated areas immediately after the product is applied.

Take Back Your Plants

Treat snails and slugs when and where they’re most active. Activity heightens in moist areas, so dampen soil slightly if needed. Target areas around vulnerable plants or apply at your garden’s perimeter to intersect telltale slug and snail trails. The pests eat the bait as they travel between hiding places and feeding grounds.
Apply during moderate temperatures, not when weather is overly hot, cool or dry. Choose a calm day with no rain in the 24-hour forecast, so bait doesn’t get washed or blown away. Scatter slug and snail bait evenly over areas at a rate of 1/2 teaspoon per square yard. See label instructions for large areas or heavy infestations. Keep bait on the ground, not on plants, and never leave piles. Reapply every two weeks, or as the bait disappears.

Expect Victory and Enjoy

When slugs and snails feed on sodium ferric EDTA bait — even in small amounts — they immediately stop eating. The defeated pests slink back to hiding places, where they die in three to six days. Even if sluggish pests are seen, they’re no longer doing damage. However, staying vigilant is a must. Slugs and snails hatch from eggs, so the next invasion may be waiting. Be mindful; remove plant debris and avoid overwatering. If a new generation hatches, be prepared.

With Corry’s Slug & Snail Killer in your arsenal, you can fight marauding slugs and snails and enjoy your garden again.

Corry’s is a registered trademark of Matson, LLC

Pennington is a registered trademark of Pennington Seed, Inc.

Garden Myths – Learn the truth about gardening

Slugs, slugs, slugs – everybody wants to get rid of the slugs and there are all kinds of methods that are reported to work. I have already reviewed several of these including:

  • Eggshells Control Slugs – Do They Really Work?
  • Getting Rid of Slugs With Coffee Grounds
  • How To Get Rid of Slugs With Beer
  • How to Get Rid of Slugs With Copper

What about diatomaceous earth? Apparently, the sharp edges in diatomaceous earth cut the bellies of slugs, and they bleed out and die. Diatomaceous earth is used effectively for controlling insects, so maybe it works on slugs. Time for an experiment.

Diatomaceous Earth – diatoms

What is Diatomaceous Earth?

Diatomaceous earth, also known as DE, diatomite or kieselgur/kieselguhr, is a soft silica-based rock with particle sizes in the range of 10 to 200 micrometers, or a fraction of a millimeter. The rock consists of fossilized diatoms which are a form of hard algae.

DE is available in two different grades; a food grade and a pool filter grade. For horticultural purposes you should always use the food grade or a product marked for pests. The pool grade is processed differently and will not work.

In horticulture, diatomaceous earth is used as a pesticide. When it is applied to insects, it removes their waxy protective coating, and may cause scratches in their exoskeleton, leading to dehydration and death. If it can kill insects, it might also work on slugs? A lot of information on the internet certainly says it works.

It is claimed that the sharp edges of the diatoms cut the foot (ie the bottom) of the slug, and the slug either bleeds to death or dehydrates due to a loss of moisture.

Warning: slugs and snails were hurt in this experiment and were eventually killed!

Slug Control – Experiment Setup

The experiment is designed to test two things:

a) will slugs (and snails) cross a line of diatomaceous earth? If it were placed around a plant, would it stop the slug from getting to the plant.

b) if a slug crawled across the diatomaceous earth, would it get cut so bad that it dies?

Testing (a) above is fairly simple. Make a ring of diatomaceous earth, and place a slug in the center of the ring. See what happens. If they won’t cross the DE, they will remain inside the circle.

Testing for (b) is a bit more difficult. What do cuts on a slug look like? Do they bleed? I am no slug expert, and don’t have a good stereoscope to check for cuts. I decided I would take a different approach. Let the slug crawl over some DE, and then see if it dies. I don’t really care if they get cuts, or how many cuts they get. As a gardener all I care about is that they die from the exposure.

Collected slugs and snails were kept for a few days in a plastic container with water and some decomposing fruits and vegetables for food. They seemed quite content in their surroundings and were eating well.

Do Slugs Cross Diatomaceous Earth?

The pictures below show some tests to see if snails cross the DE. The experiment was also carried out with slugs and no difference was found between slugs and snails.

When they are placed in the circle they start to crawl and soon reach the DE. Their upper and lower tentacles reach out to sense their surroundings. The upper ones have eyes but they only see light and dark. The lower ones are sensitive to smells. Both are also sensitive to touch.

As the tentacles came close to the diatomaceous earth, they immediately withdrew. Since both types of tentacles withdrew, it seems logical to conclude that they did not like the feel of the DE. Maybe they can feel the sharpness?

In any event, the snails never crossed the DE. When they got close, they turned around and tried to escape by a different route. They did however get some DE on themselves while trying to cross.

Snails trying to cross a ring of diatomaceous earth

The slugs were returned to their plastic home for 48 hours to see what effect the DE had on them. As you can see in the picture below, there were no short term effects.

Same snails, 48 hours later, completely unaffected by the diatomaceous earth

The test slugs and snails in this trial would not voluntarily crawl over the DE. Provided it is dry and the band of DE is wide enough and thick enough, the DE will prevent the slug from reaching the plant most of the time. In one trial, a snail crawled over another snail, thereby completely missing the DE – he got away.

Does Wet Diatomaceous Earth Work?

Both the packaging and information on the net says that DE is only effective when dry. I repeated the above experiment after dropping some water on the DE. They had no problem walking on wet DE.

Snails had no problem crossing wet diatomaceous earth

Does Diatomaceous Earth Kill Slugs and Snails?

Since the slugs did not cross the DE, I had to find a different way to expose them to diatomaceous earth. I simply picked one up, and dropped him or her (they are hermaphrodites) into a pile of DE. It was forced to crawl on the DE and it got quite covered in the stuff.

It clearly did not like this experiment – did I hear small sequels as the DE cut its belly? I’m not sure. It kept retracting its various body parts, trying to get away from the white powder. Eventually it did get off the pile.

Poor thing! I just picked it up and put it right back on the pile. This time it took longer to get off the pile. The snail did seem to be in some distress or maybe it was just unhappy with its situation. By the time it get free of the DE for the second time, it retracted into it’s shell and just laid there. I figured it was a goner.

Snail, unwillingly playing in diatomaceous earth

The slug was returned to its plastic home for 48 hours. I expected it to die from its lacerations, but as you can see in the picture below, it was fine. You can still see some of the diatomaceous earth on his shell.

Snail 48 hours after exposure to diatomaceous earth – alive and doing well.

I repeated the experiment with a slug to see if there was a difference in survival rate.

Slug, unwillingly playing in diatomaceous earth

Slug several days later doing just fine. The shed DE is still visible.

Clearly diatomaceous earth does not kill the type of slugs or snails being tested here. Maybe they will die in a couple of weeks, or months from infection or chemical exposure, but as gardeners, if they don’t die fairly quickly, then DE is of no use to us for killing slugs. Diatomaceous earth did not kill slugs in this test.

Diatomaceous Earth Does NOT Cut Slugs

Ever since I read that the sharp edges of DE cut the bellies of slugs, I had my doubts. Slugs are used to crawling all over things. In my post Eggshells Control Slugs – Do They Really Work?, you can see a video of them crawling over knives and raiser blades. Why would a white powder hurt them?

To understand this better it is important to understand slug slime. Reference 1 and 2 can provide some details, but in short, the slime protects the foot of the slug from cuts.

While watching the slugs, I noticed that where the slug touched the DE, the DE turned from white to gray. After a few minutes it turned back to white. The gray color is an indication that water/slime had been transferred to the DE. The slime from the slug is making the DE wet and ineffective.

I don’t believe that diatomaceous earth cuts slugs – it is another myth.

Does Diatomaceous Earth Deter Slugs?

I believe it does to a certain extent. If you surround your plant with a line of DE that is as wide as the biggest slug foot in your garden, it will prevent them from getting to your plant. But….. there is always a but.

Rain will wash the DE away and wind will blow it away, so it needs to be applied regularly. When wet, it stops working and slugs like wet places. So don’t apply it after watering or after a rain – you need to let the soil dry out first.

It is not cheap. I don’t think that it is an economical way to keep slugs away from a number of plants. Saving one or two special plants – Ok, but if you try to protect your collection of 40 hostas, you better have lots of cash.

There is one fundamental problem with ringing your plants with DE to keep slugs out. You have to make sure the slugs are not inside the circle, before you put the DE on the soil. If they are, you are caging them in and forcing them to eat the plant you are trying to protect.

Bottom line – DE works to deter slugs, but I question if it is a practical solution for anything more than a couple of plants. In any event it does not kill the slugs.

Slug Sex

What has this got to do with DE you ask. Nothing. But the following video is so cool you have to watch it.

Apparently this video has been blocked in the UK, which is odd since the BBS has share enabled on this video, which means they authorize people to share the link. If you can run the above, here is the link “”.

1) What is The Slime That Comes From Snails and Slugs? :

2) Slugs – Interesting Facts, Mucus Slime, and Pest Control:

3) Photo Source: pali_nalu

If you like this post, please share …….


What Are the Signs of a Slug Infestation?

A slug infestation is fairly easy to recognize. These are the most common clues that point toward slug activity:

  • Slug damage to plants will appear as ragged holes around a leaf, often leaving stem pieces untouched
  • Look for a silvery slime on the chewed leaves
  • Look for slime trails across pavement, wood and rocks
  • Seedlings usually will have all their leaves removed, but the stem will remain
  • Slug damage to plants will often occur overnight or after a heavy rain
  • Large slugs will leave a scalloped bite pattern on leaves
  • Slugs are most active in early spring

If you want further proof, head out to your garden at night with a flashlight and look for them. They aren’t shy, so they’ll continue to munch while you observe them.

How Can I Control a Slug Infestation?

There are several methods for controlling a pre-existing slug population. Performing these tasks can significantly reduce the number of slugs in an area over a period of time.

  • Water in the morning – Garden and plant experts agree that watering in the morning is best for your plants. Doing so also helps to protect your plants from slugs because the water evaporates during daylight hours. Plants and gardens that are persistently moist during overnight hours are highly attractive to slugs. Drier areas are more likely to be avoided by slugs.
  • Create a Protective Ring – Protect your favorite ornamental plants – hostas, for example – with a ring of TERRO® Ant Dust which will keep slugs away. Another option for saving your ornamental plants is to apply TERRO® Multi-Purpose Insect Bait or TERRO® Perimeter Ant Bait Plus to your flowerbed.
  • Expose Slug Eggs & Slug Hiding Spots – Thoroughly rake up leaf piles, straw and other debris around your garden. These areas can serve as shelters for slugs as they escape high temperatures. Further, raking the soil will expose slug eggs and cause them to dehydrate.

How Can I Get Rid of Slugs?

  • Ant Dust – While “ant” is in the name of TERRO® Ant Dust, this product is highly effective at eradicating a slug population. Just sprinkle the dust around the perimeter of the area you want to protect and it will start working as soon as a slug passes over the dust. For additional protection, sprinkle the Ant Dust in areas where slugs congregate to stay moist, including cracks in sidewalks, under boards and rocks, in leaf piles and so on.
  • Multi-Purpose Insect Bait or Perimeter Ant Bait Plus – Two other TERRO® products, Multi-Purpose Insect Bait and Perimeter Ant Bait Plus, should be used at the beginning of the season and every four weeks after. By broadcasting these granules in and around your ornamental plants, you will have your slug problem under control in no time.
  • Beer – Making a ‘Slug Pub’ is a moderately effective way to get rid of slugs. Start by sinking a small, but deep, bowl so its lip is flush with the ground and then filling it with beer. Slugs are attracted to the smell of yeast and come to feed. As we said, this method is only moderately successful as some of the slugs, but probably not even half of them, will slide into the beer and drown.
  • Ducks – Ducks are one of the few domesticated animals that eat slugs, so if you can make your yard duck friendly, you may be able to get your slug population under control. Of course, you’ll need to train those ducks to not eat your plants.
  • Slug hunts – Visit your garden or lawn at night and, armed with a flashlight, bucket and old fork, go on a slug hunt. Scoop up any slugs you see and deposit them in a bucket where they will drown in a soap-and-water solution.

I Picked Up a Slug and Now My Fingers Are Slimy. What Do I Do?

While it may seem like a good idea to wash off slug mucus, don’t do it! Their mucus reacts with water, causing it to spread. Instead of washing it, rub your hand and fingers together. This causes the mucus to ball up (much the same way as rubber cement would), and it is then easy to pick off your skin. Once you’re satisfied that you’ve pulled up the slime, you should then wash your hands for sanitary reasons.

Can I Pour Salt on a Slug to Kill It?

Pouring salt on a slug will kill it in a matter of seconds, however, it generally takes quite a bit of salt to do so. The salt kills the slug through osmosis – it draws water from inside the slug and rapidly dehydrates it.

The problem with this method is that the salt can damage the nearby soil, leaving it unusable for planting for years to come. Salt can also damage other surfaces the slug may be crawling on, including wood decks, tiled floors or painted surfaces.

How Can I Stop Slugs From Entering a Flowerbed?

The best way to keep slugs out of an area is to stop them early in the season.

In the early spring, rake your flower beds and ornamental plants to remove leaves and other debris. This will also disturb and remove slug eggs at the same time.

Also work to remove any areas where slugs can shield themselves from the sun. Remove boards, flat rocks and other objects where slugs hide. Even large pieces of mulch can protect a slug. Likewise, don’t pile mulch more than 3 inches high.

An immediate option for keeping slugs out is to sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the border of the area. Slugs do not like to cross over territory covered with a rough or sharp texture that diatomaceous earth creates. An even better option is to sprinkle TERRO® Ant Dust around your ornamental plants. This will kill slugs and many other harmful plant pests, including ants, crickets, cockroaches, ticks and wasps.

Folk remedies suggest protecting your plants with a ring of crushed egg shells or sand, but this doesn’t work. In fact, snails appear to be attracted by the smell of eggs, and sand doesn’t bother them (unless they’re stuck in a desert). Coffee grounds and copper strips, two other commonly suggested folk repellents, don’t work either.

How Can I Keep Slugs From My Pet’s Food?

Slugs will invade food bowls left outside overnight. Your best bet is to simply remove the bowl after your pet has finished eating and clean up the debris. Slugs have a great sense of smell, and kibble appears to be one of those food items they will seek out.

Further, removing outdoor food bowls is a good idea for more than just preventing a slug problem. By leaving a food bowl out, you may attract even worse pests than slugs to your home!

Are There Different Kinds of Slugs?

There are dozens of slugs native to North America as well as several invasive species that have established a firm footing here. These are just a few of those species:

  • California Banana Slug – This slug is often bright yellow with black spots, giving it the appearance of an old banana.
  • Carolina Mantleslug – Covered in a mottle of black speckles, this slug has a head to tail mantle.
  • Changeable Mantleslug – This slug has a light brown body with brown flecks.
  • Dusky Slug – A small, invasive slug from Europe with light brown to yellow coloring.
  • Leopard Slug – Also called the great gray slug, this invasive species has spread throughout the U.S.
  • Pacific Banana Slug – Found along the Pacific Coast , this slug can reach nearly 10 inches long.
  • Reticulate Taildropper – A slug with an internal shell that has a light brown to red body.
  • Scarletback Taildropper – A slug with a red back and gray sides that grows to be about 2 inches long.
  • Striped Greenhouse Slug – An invasive slug with a light brown body that measures only a few inches when grown.
  • Three-banded Garden Slug – An import from Europe, this slug has three thin dark bands running lengthwise on its body.
  • Winding Mantleslug – A small slug, less than an inch long, with flecks of dark brown.
  • Yellow-bordered Taildropper – A large slug with a bright yellow border around its mantle area.

7 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Snails & Slugs in the Garden

Try these seven natural remedies to get rid of snails and slugs in the garden.

How to Get Rid of Snails & Slugs

1. Use a Natural Insect Spray
Use a natural pest control spray, such as the Dr. Earth spray, to repel snails and slugs in the backyard. These products, however, should not be sprayed directly onto plants as they may cause conditions like leaf burns.

2. Sprinkle Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth
This natural powder is somewhat of a hidden gem when it comes to natural pest control. Buy some food-grade diatomaceous earth and sprinkle it on areas where the snails and slugs frequent. Diatomaceous earth has microscopic edges that can pierce the bodies of slugs and snails.

3. Set up a Beer Container Trap
First, find a spot in the garden where you can bury a container. The container should be buried deep enough so that the rim is level with the ground. Next, find some stale, flat beer and pour it into the container (about an inch deep). The snails and slugs will be attracted to the smell of the beer and drop themselves into the trap.

4. Set up a Hiding Place Trap
Snails and slugs like to hide in dark, damp spaces. Find a wet piece of wood or wooden plank and place it near an area where snails and slugs are frequently spotted. The next morning, check the wooden plank and get rid of any critters attached to it.

5. Use Emptied Grapefruit Halves
Slice a grapefruit in half then scoop out and enjoy the grapefruit flesh. Next, place the emptied grapefruit halves near affected plants and leave them overnight. You should find plenty of slugs and snails in it the next morning.

6. Scatter Egg Shells
Break egg shells into tiny pieces then scatter them on the garden soil. Snails and slugs don’t like egg shells because of their sharp edges.

7. Introduce Natural Predators
Birds love pecking at snails and slugs. Attract the birds to the backyard by setting up a birdbath. You could also consider other natural predators like beneficial insects. If conditions allow, you may want to buy praying mantis egg cases and let these insects handle the pest problem.

Natural predators like birds will also help control other common household pests such as cockroaches, ants, and mosquitoes. It’s a win-win situation since they can find an easy source of food in your yard.

Sam Choan is the Founder of Organic Lesson. He started this site to share tips on using natural remedies at home when such options are available.

Eight ways to get rid of unwanted snails

An old favourite, and effective if a bit cruel. If the snails aren’t near plants, pour the salt straight on them. Mix salt with vaseline and apply it to the rims of your pots to make a preventative layer.

Beer trap

Sink a cup full of beer into the ground. Snails will sniff the beer, follow the scent, fall into the cup and drown. Sensible use for lager.

Copper ring

Copper wire around your plants will administer a small electric shock to the snails as they cross. Electric shocks are disheartening to any traveller.


This is a “biological control,” where tiny worms burrow into the snails and kill them. Sounds cool, but in practice is hard to see with the native eye.

Keep them as pets

Cheaper and easier to keep than fish, your pet snails will quickly make you the talk of the neighbourhood. Possibly when you are not there.

Race them

Paint their shells with a number, set up a course and open an underground betting ring. Not technically illegal, the last time I checked, and everyone can feel like they’re in this top Guinness ad from 2000,

Eat ’em

Collect them at night. Put them in an escape-proof bucket and feed them human-friendly food – lettuce, stale bread and apples are all good options – for a week to clean their systems out. Then “purge” them for two days, with no food or water. To cook, boil them for three minutes, drain, remove from their shells. Wash in water with a little vinegar, then cook with water, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper. Serve with garlic and butter. Lots of garlic and butter.

How to stop slugs and snails eating their way through your garden plants

They’re slippery and slimey. They slither around. They love the damp and wet. They procreate like crazy and gardeners just love to hate them.

Slugs and snails are everywhere, attacking all the new lush growth, decimating beds and borders, destroying cabbages and hostas, driving already challenged gardeners to distraction.

Make no mistake, this is the year of the slug and everyone has a slug story.

So what plants do they find tasty and how do we control them?

Firstly they are living things and maybe like many other living things they have a right to exist.

So one approach is to try to deter them from attacking your plants, without annihilating them.

There are various ways to control slugs and snails. One of the most effective can be extremely satisfying (if you’re not scared of handling the critters) – just pluck them off after dark with the aid of a torch.

I have an aversion to killing anything in the garden, so I happily gather them up and dispose of them in the field behind my garden where they find plenty to munch on.


Slug pellets and other poisonous potions are of course available from garden centres and supermarkets.

But be careful… they can be dangerous to other more friendly wildlife such as birds.

If you do use pellets, try positioning them under stones, rotting wood or pieces of slate where slugs like to lay their eggs.

This will afford some protection to garden friendly creatures.

A more environmentally friendly solution is to create physical barriers around the stems of your plants.

Copper bands or tape will emit a slight electric shock through the sluggy slime, which stops slugs attacking your precious produce, much as an electric fence helps farmers to contain livestock.

However, the copper seemingly needs cleaning regularly, which is a bit of a job.

Slug story: Protect your garden from the slimy things (Image: Getty)

My latest discovery however has provided excellent results… wool pellets, which when scattered by the handful around the base of your specimen, then watered, form a mat which, because of it’s hygroscopic texture (ie, it can retain water), is an irritant slugs and snails don’t like to cross.

And better still, the mat eventually breaks down, providing a slow release fertiliser rich in nitrogen.

It wont harm pets or wildlife, is endorsed by the soil association, and is sold under the name Slug Gone.

Other mats or barriers can be created by using broken egg shells or sharp sand, just be careful that they form effective rings and aren’t washed away in the rain.


Seaweed, if readily available, acts as a good repellent. Just mulch around the base of plants with a few layers, and of course this will be wonderfully nutritious to your veg plot and also will help the structure of your soil no end.


If you want the slugs to die happy, well, try a beer trap or even just sinking a saucer of beer into the ground near the plants which need protecting.

They will become slightly merry before drowning in the alcohol, but you will have to top up regularly and also protect from over dilution by the rain.


A somewhat cruel but natural way of controlling these creatures is to introduce roundworms aka nematodes, Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita, available over the net or from some garden centres.

They can be watered into moist soils, they invade the bodies and kill from within. Urggh. I’d prefer to drown in beer!

Well that’s your list, it’s a perennial task, because slugs and snails are creatures that drive gardeners to distraction.

Or maybe, just maybe… we should do as the French do… anyone for garlic snails?

Slugs and Snails: All You Need To Know

Slugs quickly destroy crops and leave a slimy mess behind.

Where Are Slugs and Snails Most Common?

Slug and snail populations are highest in warm, moist, humid climates. In the United States, the Pacific and Atlantic coastal areas are prime regions for slugs and snails, with the Pacific Northwest, tropical and subtropical Hawaii, and Florida especially hard hit. But even gardeners in cooler, northern climates are threatened by these pests. From Maine to Minnesota, slugs and snails simply wait out winters in hiding spots that protect them from freezing.

Snails’ protective shells also influence their location. To form shells properly, snails need calcium, which wild snails get primarily from soil. This need limits their range to areas where natural soil and weather conditions combine to keep soil calcium readily available. Their shells help them tolerate these often drier climates, too. Shell-less, unprotected slugs don’t need calcium like snails do; they need moisture. They flourish where it stays plentiful.

Many slug and snail pests that damage U.S. gardens aren’t native to the areas they inhabit. Non-native species have been brought into the country over the years — intentionally and unintentionally— adapting nicely and finding coastal U.S. climates, plants and agricultural crops to their liking. States such as California and Florida spend tens of millions of dollars annually to fight these invasive pests.3

What Attracts Slugs and Snails to Lawns and Gardens?

Gardens and lawns are especially attractive to slugs and snails because they’re usually irrigated or watered regularly. Gardens provide ample spots for shelter from the sun and winds that can dry out these pests. They also provide a smorgasbord of the tender leaves and shoots that slugs and snails prefer. Even when low rainfall strikes an area, these intruders can count on well-maintained gardens and lawns for the moisture and food they need.

During sunny days and hot summer months, slugs and snails shelter where they can stay cool and moist. They come out at night or when clouds or fog roll in. In and around your garden, you’ll find them in staying comfortable and moist under dense groundcovers, untended weeds, leaf debris, discarded boards and similar objects. Removing these hiding spots, using drip irrigation instead of overhead watering, and planting drought-resistant plants that need less water can help make your garden less attractive to these pests.

Dateline: August 11, 2011*

Usually I get all excited finding something new in the garden or the pond. This week, I’m saddened to report that my pond has finally been infiltrated by invasive applesnails that wreak havoc on Florida’s waters. I can’t tell whether they are Island Applesnails (Pomacea insularum) or Channeled Applesnails (P. canaliculata). I haven’t seen any adult snails yet, but I know they are there because the bright pink eggs appeared in two spots on wax myrtle branches that extend out over my pond. Note that August** is Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month. Does that mean plants that are pests? or pests of plants such as these applesnails. If the former, thank goodness the Kudzu didn’t show up.

Snail Eggs of an invasive species to Florida

There is a beneficial applesnail in Florida that is native and called the Florida applesnail (P. paludosa). The Island and Channel Applesnails eat rooted aquatic vegetation, while the native applesnail feeds on periphyton, a complex mixture of algae, cyanobacteria, heterotrophic microbes, and detritus attached to submerged surfaces in most aquatic ecosystems . Thus the Florida applesnail doesn’t harm the plant but the invasive ones are plant pests since they eat the plant itself.

A friend of mine spotted invasive applesnail eggs in the culvert on my block last year. I determined them to be Island Applesnails and reported the sighting to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission so they would be aware they were in my area since it didn’t appear on the map they maintain. They have a great identification handout with a reporting form.

I’m guessing because we had such a severe drought this past winter and the culverts were without water for so long, the snails took it upon themselves to find anywhere that had water, such as my pond. Another possibility is that with recent rains they just may have traveled with the overflow waters up and onto my place. And now they live in my pond. CURSES!

How did introduced snails get to Florida in the first place? According to the University of Florida

“Pomacea insularum (d’Orbigny, 1839), the island applesnail, is the most common introduced species. This species was originally thought to be the channeled applesnail. Pomacea insularum was probably released in south Florida in the early 1980s by persons with the tropical pet industry, and rapidly expanded throughout the state. Pomacea insularum is now found in Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. Introductions have occurred in Arizona, California and Hawaii. (FFWCC 2006)(USGS 2009b).”

Other types of mollusks cause problems throughout the United States: New Zealand Mudsnails are in the west; Zebra and Quagga Mussels in the Great Lakes and Midwest all of which contribute to the appoximately $1.1-120 billion per year in economic losses due to exotic, invasive species within the United States.

What can we do to prevent aquatic hitchhikers and other invasive species from moving from place to place?

In my case, I scraped the eggs into the water since eggs won’t hatch if they are inundated with water. I also routinely rake many adults out of the culvert and put them in a freezer (a humane way to euthanize since I’m no sadist and I still feel for the poor living critters). Overall, people can stop emptying aquarium water outside, wash their boats before towing, clean off fishing boots or other items before going to different water bodies. Basically, paying attention to the consequences our actions at home may have on the environment.

Invasive mollusks are everyone’s problem, so think about what’s in your own beautiful wildlife garden and be proactive in preventing contamination of natural areas by not using pet store snails even in prefabricated and ornamental ponds. Remember, it only takes one snail to infest a natural waterbody! Please help protect our creeks and streams!

Tip: Follow USDA_APHIS on twitter for daily information on what’s invading your area, how to prevent invasives and other invasive news.

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on August 11, 2011 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegardencom. Click the date to view reader comments.

**Since initial publication of this article, USDA changed the awareness month from August to April.

Char Klatt has been salting the earth in her yearlong battle against snails that have infested the back yard of her Dr. Phillips home.

Seasoning the slimy pests slows them down by fatal dehydration.

But, like the undead in a zombie movie, the mucus-driven creatures keep coming back.

“They eat the plants and also they leave the slime on your house, and you have to go wash it off,” she said. “I know they’re not just here in my yard. Where would they come from?”

Klatt’s infestation appears to be isolated to her yard and possibly a neighbor or two.

But it’s not a widespread problem and the species causing her headaches — the brown garden snail — is commonly found in Central Florida.

Her outbreak is likely the result of having too many plants that snails love to eat and not having enough natural predators — birds — to keep the population in check.

Klatt’s backyard enemies aren’t the giant African land snails that have been grabbing headlines in South Florida

Those oversized mollusks kill crops, carry diseases and pull the stucco off homes.

Klatt’s critters are nothing to be afraid of, says Edmund L. Thralls, an urban horticulture agent in Orange County.

“She may have plants that snails particularly like, and snails will breed in the area,” Thralls said. “As long as there’s an adequate food source, they will stick around.”

The yucky things seem to be enjoying the organic treats in Klatt’s tropical-themed backyard.

They routinely chew holes in the leaves of her siegals, hibiscus and robellini palms, which she’s had in her backyard for at least 15 years.

She saw the first snail in front of her yard about a year ago.

“It was huge. It was like the size of an orange,” Klatt said.

Now, she’s spotting three or four of the pests every day — either eating through her plants or sliding along her patio screen.

She keeps clusters of empty snail shells, which Klatt calls “graveyards,” scattered throughout her backyard as proof of the sudden invasion.

“I feel like I’m losing here,” she said.

Thralls said there’s a few ways to get rid of the slime balls.

•Attract the snail’s predators to your garden. Install a bird bath or bird house with seeds to bring in more birds, who prey on snails.

•Put down iron phosphate, the most effective compound for killing snails. The snails eat the iron phosphate, which kills them within days. The mineral is safe for use around wildlife, pets and people.

•Eliminate places for the snails to hide, such as weedy patches.

•Rid your garden of plants that snails enjoy, such as succulent foliage and cactus plants.

“Succulent plants, those high in moisture, are susceptible to snail damage,” Thralls said. “Some of our vegetable crops in our home vegetable gardens are also appealing to snails. Some cactus plants, or cactus-like plants that have a lot of moisture in them, will also target snails.”

Anyone with questions about snails can contact the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Service in Orange County at 407-254-9200.

[email protected] or 407-420-5620

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