Slugs and Snails are terrestrial gastropods, closely related to oysters and clams. The two pests are very similar, with Slugs lacking Snails' external shell. Slugs and Snails are hermaphrodites, meaning both male and females have the potential to lay eggs, most of which are laid in the fall. Young hatch in 10-21 days, mature in as little as 40 days, and then overwinter to begin feeding in early spring.
Snails and Slugs usually overwinter in the soil but in mild winter climates, can spend the winter in a dormant state attached to the trunks of trees and shrubs, such as citrus. In these areas, they can also be active year-round.
Slugs and Snails are serious garden pests, chewing holes in plants and fruit. They feed mostly at night, or in moist or rainy weather. They can consume young seedlings overnight. They both secrete mucus, which leaves a telltale slime trail behind. They require moisture to survive, which means they are mostly found in damp, wet areas. Controlling Snails usually takes multiple approaches, including baits and the cultural measures listed below.
Slugs and Snails are found throughout the United States.
- Use drip irrigation to minimize wetting of soil.
- Handpick or squash at night.
- Eliminate debris that provides daytime cover.
- Trap. Place boards or other pieces of wood around the garden as traps. Snails and Slugs will hide underneath during the day when they can be easily collected and dispatched.
- Low-lying bowls or tins filled with beer can also be used to trap and drown Snails and Slugs.
- Where legal (parts of the West), release decollate Snails that prey on pest Snails (check with your local cooperative extension)
- Snails and Slugs cannot cross copper barriers. Copper striping (available in nurseries and garden centers) can be used around plant trunks.