Snails – can’t live with ’em…

There have been some good questions rolling in this week in the Ask Gardenerd department.  One gardener asks,

“Oh, the SNAILS!!  They’re everywhere!  What to do about them?  How do I safely get rid of this pain in the *#%!, icky, dual-gender, critter?  Last spring I bought some of those cannibal snails that are supposed to eat garden snails… didn’t really work.  Any suggestions?”

I had a neighbor who also bought decollate snails and did have success with them, but I haven’t tried them myself.  There are a number of options, depending on your set up:

Diatomaceous earth – a desiccant made up of fossilized matter that dehydrates the insects and leads to their ultimate demise. You can get some from Gardeners Supply: Diatomaceous Earth, 1-1/2 lbs. It worked on keeping sow bugs away from my bean plants too.  You have to apply the powder in a dry environment and between watering in order for it to work.  Once it gets wet, it is much less effective.

Beer – (I haven’t tried this myself, because I don’t drink beer and I don’t care to have my garden smell like a night out on the town), however… fill a plastic cup with beer and bury it up to the lip in the ground.  They apparently love the stuff and die happy.  Replenish often.

My most trusted solution has always been this: use raised beds and line the top edge of your beds with adhesive copper tape.  It’s available in the garden department of most hardware stores, or you can find it at nurseries.  I usually cut the tape in half lengthwise before attaching it to the raised beds.  That way, your supply goes twice as far.  Be careful, copper tape can cut you – it is metal after all.  The only time I’ve seen snails get past this stuff is when they (ingeniously, I might add) pile a layer mulch on top of the copper tape and use it as a bridge to get over.

The other trusted solution is to get up early and go out to your garden before the sun hits the soil, pull back the plants and lift up boards and you will surely find these night owls settling in after a night of frivolity with your plants.  Since I don’t have the heart to kill them directly, I put them into a cup and hurl them into the field next door.  I figure if they can make their way back to my garden, they can eat all they want.

Do you have any sure fire way of dealing with snails?  Let us know here.

Thanks for writing – keep those questions coming. 

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Christy Wilhelmi

    Here’s an interesting article I found about snails.  I personally think this confirms my belief that they are intelligent little buggers:

    Snails Save Energy by Re-Using Mucus Trails

    By LiveScience Staff

    In order to conserve valuable energy, snails essentially play a game of follow-the-leader, a new study finds.

    Snails create trails of mucus to that help them glide across the ground, mainly in search of food or a partner, but making all that mucus uses up a lot of energy.

    “Snails expend a lot of energy, probably a third, creating mucus,” said Mark Davies of the University of Sunderland, lead author of the study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “This process is very taxing indeed—much more so than walking, swimming or flying.”

    Davies and his colleagues studied marine snails off the coast of Britain and discovered that to save some of this vital energy, the snails sometimes follow the existing mucus trails laid down by other snails to get around and so only have to create a fraction of the mucus needed to make a new trail.

    “The fact that they can make savings has a knock on effect in as much as they have more energy to do other things like reproduce,” Davies said.

    The energy savings may also helps snails which live in environments where food is scarce, making the energy harder to replace.

    Davies discovered the snails’ reuse of trails by measuring the thickness of the mucus along the trails.

    Biologists had long suspected that snails behaved this way, but this is the first study to directly observe it.

    Davies said that it is likely that all snails use this means of cutting energy as they plod through life.

  2. Monica Montes

    Yeay!! So I’m the first to respond. Great site and I’m learning a lot about gardening in just a few pages. Oh no!… does this mean I need to get me some glasses now. I can see myself slooowwwllyyy chaaanngginngg.. toooo aaaa gaarrdeennerrddd. heellpp…meee….

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.