Our January climate brings cool, wet weather which provides perfect conditions for slugs and snails to attack our gardens! Snails and slugs feed on the leaves of many plants. They also eat ripening fruits and vegetables (they aren’t picky, slugs and snails like the leaves and fruits of a wide range of crops such as lettuce, basil, broccoli, and strawberries).
If slugs are abundant one year, it does not mean they will be as common the following season; the relative number of slugs depends on how moist the growing conditions are, and if you employ preventative measures to control slugs and snails. Before we get to how to treat for snails and slugs, first we need to learn how to identify a snail, how to identify a slug, and how to tell if you have snails and slugs in your garden!
Chances are, if you have snails in your garden, it is the common garden snail…
…also called the brown garden snail. The common garden snail can be identified by its brown coiled shell and gray body. Shells on their backs and are 1 to 1-1/2 inches long.
Slugs are best described as snails without shells. They are a type of mollusk, related to clams and oysters. Slugs are soft bodied, generally brownish or grayish, with eye stalks. They vary in size from 1/8 to 2 inches long (longer when stretched out). It’s cousin – the banana slug – may be up to 4 to 6 inches long
Most slugs and snails are dark or light gray, tan, green, or black; some have darker spots or patterns. Slugs and snails leave a slime (mucus) trail that they secrete as they move. Eggs are clear, oval, or round, and are laid in jelly-like masses.
How to find snails and slugs in the garden:
To find slugs or snails, look after dark, before dawn, or on cloudy days. Check underneath plants, bottoms of boards and rocks, and on low growing foliage, especially in shady areas.
Look for colorless eggs, about the size of a BB, in clusters under dirt clods or on the underside of large leaves near the crown of plants. Egg laying occurs during warm months, especially in the fall.
How to identify slug and snail damage to plants:
Slug damage is apparent in irregularly shaped chewed out spots on leaves. Slugs are especially fond of lush or succulent plants like basil, beans, cabbage, citrus trees, dahlias, hostas, lettuce, and strawberries. Watch for the silvery trail they leave behind as they move. If you’re not sure what’s causing damage to your plants, this secretion is a telltale sign of slug or snail activity! Read our next article on how to organically control and treat snails and slugs.