Insects

Slugs and Snails

Slugs and Snails
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The many species of these mollusks, which vary in size and color, thrive in moist, shady surroundings. Snails have a shell and slugs don't, but both secrete a slimy mucus on which they glide along) leaving telltale silvery trails. The pests feed at night and on overcast days; when the sun shines they go under cover. Slugs and some snails burrow into the soil, while other types of snails hide in debris or on plants. If conditions are too dry, a snail can seal itself in its shell and remain dormant for up to 4 years.

Target: All plants.

Damage: Large, ragged holes are eaten in leaves; seedlings are demolished.

Life cycle: Every slug and snail has both male and female sex organs, so any individual can lay clusters of tiny, gelatinous eggs in the soil. Some can even fertilize their own eggs. Depending on available food and moisture, a snail can take a few months or as long as a few years to reach maturity. The pests can overwinter as eggs, but they’re normally encountered as adults.

Notes: Overturned flowerpots, grape fruit halves, and boards laid on the ground make good traps. Placing snail bait in stations keeps the poison dry and protects children, pets, and birds. (To make your own stations, cut holes in the sides of empty cans.) Salt is often suggested as a control, but it’s bad for the soil, and the mollusks often recover.