For some people, snails or escargot are a gourmet delight. But, a snail’s idea of a good dinner might be one of your prized ornamentals. Snails, and their slimy cousins, slugs, are a common problem in the Florida landscape, but they can be controlled without too much trouble. In this article we’ll help you identify these pests, we’ll describe their habits and habitats, and then offer some tips on their control.
Snails and slugs are members of the animal group known as Mollusca. This family includes such creatures as mussels, clams, whelks, squids and octopuses. My information was provided by Extension Emeritus Specialists Dr. Robert J. Black, of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
As we all know, the snail’s soft body is protected by a spiral shell. The kind of garden snails you might find around your home varies considerably in shape size and color. Some are round, some elongated. Some are tiny, while others reach lengths of up to one or two inches. Colors range from off-white to brown or black. Some shells are striped or mottled with contrasting colors.
Slugs, unlike snails, do not have shells. They are usually mottled in shades of gray, but may be whitish-yellow, brown or black. Slugs vary from one-half inch to four inches in length.
Snails and slugs can cause various problems around the home. They like to feed on seedling, flowers, vegetables and shrubs. In greenhouses they attack young seedlings and the more succulent parts of matures plants. They also annoy homeowners by their presence around foundations, or walks, and in window wells.
These pests are often found on molds, decaying organic matter, and on the foliage of plants. They require large amounts of moisture to survive, and they prefer darkness. In fact, slugs and snails are nocturnal, coming out of their hiding places in the evening to feed. They chew ragged holes in the leaves of plants and return to their hiding places in the early morning.
Favorite hiding place for these pests are under old, decaying boards and logs, in rock piles, and beneath damp refuse. Slugs leave a silver-colored, slimy trail whenever they travel. Trails can be spotted on foundations, walls, and walks.
Elimination of slugs and snails begins with the destruction of their hiding places. Remove rotted boards and debris from the premises. Keep the area around flower beds clear of trash. In greenhouses, check under rotted boards, flower pots, and debris beneath benches.
Measurol is the recommended chemical for controlling slugs and snails. Most garden centers sell a snail and slug bait which contains the substance. This bait should be placed on the soil surface in the vicinity of the plants, and the treated area can be covered with several sheets of newspaper soaked with water. Apply the bait in the afternoon, or at night. If possible, do not use the bait just before a rain, because its effectiveness will be reduced. Because snails and slugs my feed intermittently rather than every day, the bait should be distributed at seven to ten days intervals until control is achieved.
A home remedy to control these pests involves filling shallow saucers with beer and placing the ton the soil in an area where they’re known to feed. The beer will attract the pests into the saucers and they will drown in the liquid.