Snails and Slugs

Snails and slugs won’t harm your lawn but the impact they may have on your garden can be, well, slimy. The most notorious snail and slug pests are the brown garden snail (Corpo aspersum), the white garden snail (Theba pisana), and grey field slug (Deroceras reticulatum). Learn how to safely, and effectively manage snails and slugs the Sunday way.

Get to Know Snails and Slugs

Snails and slugs are very different from their insect neighbors. They belong to a group called mollusks. Like many mollusks, snails and slugs move by gliding along on a muscular “foot”. This “foot” constantly secretes mucus, creating a telltale snail or slug slime trail. Seeing a slime trail is a great way to know if snails or slugs are living in or around your garden!

Did You Know: Octopuses, clams, and squids are all members of the mollusk family as well, making them close relatives of snails and slugs!

Where do Snails and Slugs Live

While snails and slugs are found nationwide, they are most active in cool, damp weather and at night. They are not fans of the sun and enter dormancy in extreme heat or cold. In the yard, snails and slugs are typically found on moist, wet surfaces like tree trunks, fences, or walls and under objects like wood and stones.

The Importance of Snails and Slugs

It’s important to note that these slimy critters are only pests when they are eating your garden veggies. Outside of the garden, they provide important ecological benefits. Snails and slugs are food for birds, mammals, and insects. They also help to recycle nutrients back into the soil by breaking down organic matter.

Snails and Slugs as Pests

While snails and slugs are not an issue in lawns, they are known to damage gardens and other landscape plants. Seedlings (including turfgrass seedlings) and fruiting plants (like strawberries) are common victims of snail and slug feeding activity. Leaves and stems with ragged edges and irregular shaped holes are indicative of snail and slug activity.

Sunday Tip: Thinking of starting a garden? Sunday can help you grow your green thumb!

 

Invasive Snails and Slugs

Some snails and slugs cause more damage than others. Both the brown garden snail (Corpo aspersum) and the white garden snail (Theba pisana) are invasive. This means that they are not native to your area and not only feed on your plants but they also compete with native snail species for resources, causing negative effects on your yard’s ecosystem.

Managing Snails and Slugs in your Garden

Sunday utilizes an Integrative Pest Management approach to help you manage snails and slugs. This approach relies on the prevention and management of pests rather than immediate chemical treatment.

 

To prevent snails and slugs: 

  1. Get rid of their hiding spots. Remove debris and stone and wood piles from your yard.
  2. Reduce moisture. Switch from sprinklers to a drip irrigation system to reduce the moisture content of your garden.

Sunday ProTip: Remove weeds early in the season as weed presence encourages snail and slug activity. In addition to hand pulling, Sunday’s Dandelion Doom and Weed Warrior can help with weed removal.

Removing Snails and Slugs from your Garden

For next steps, Sunday recommends these easy cultural removal practices.

  1. Catch and move. Pick up unwanted snails and slugs and place them away from your garden. This ensures that they can’t damage your plants but that they still provide ecological benefits to your yard. Make sure to wear gloves when catching them to avoid slimy hands.
  2. Protect plants with copper wool. Place a ring of copper wool around the base of plants to prevent snails and slugs from eating them.
  3. Make a hiding place trap. Place a flower pot or a wet wooden plank in an area where snails and slugs are frequently spotted. Check the pot or plank the next morning and dispose of any critters attached to it. As with all snail and slug traps, put it out in the late afternoon or early evening – this is when these pests are most active.
  4. Compost your favorite fruit. Don’t throw away your empty grapefruit halves or melon rinds. Leave them out in your garden overnight. Then, move the fruit and the critters that are enjoying the snack out of your garden.
  5. Sprinkle dry diatomaceous earth. Spread a band of food-grade diatomaceous earth 1 inch high and 3 inches wide around the garden. Why? Diatomaceous earth has sharp, microscopic edges that cut and dehydrate snails and slugs.
  6. Encourage natural predators in your yard. Birds help deter snails and slugs. Learn how to attract birds during high migration and how to build a bird friendly backyard.
  7. Make a beer container trap. *Don’t use this method if you have pets* 
    1. Pick a spot in your garden where snails or slugs are present. 
    2. Bury a container deep enough so that the rim is level with the ground. 
    3. Pour stale or flat beer into the container about an inch deep. 
    4. Snails and slugs are attracted to the beer and will fall into the container. 
    5. Empty the container as needed.

Cited Sources

Curran, P. Snails & Slugs Q&A. Cornell Cooperative Extension: Tompkins County. 

Deisler et al. White Garden Snail. University of Florida: IFAS Extension.

Jackman, J.A. Snails and Slugs. Texas A&M Extension: Entomology. 

Oregon State University Extension. Slug. 

Reiners et al. Section 24.6.11: Slugs and Snails. New York State IPM.

Utah State University IPM. Brown Garden Snail. 

Wilen, C. A., & Flint, M. L. Snails and Slugs. UC IPM.