Snail Control: How to Identify, Prevent and Get Rid of Snails

There are thousands of species of snails, although most of them share the same physical and feeding characteristics. They can thrive in different environments depending on their specific type. Most of them are heavy eaters, although a lot will favor plants that are still young. When they feed on seedlings, it can experience not only cosmetic damage, but also the inability to grow healthy because snails inhibit the flow of nutrients. To prevent these problems, you must know how to get rid of snails.

Among others, the most noticeable characteristic of a snail is having a shell on the back of its soft body. This serves as a protection from the external environment, including extreme weather and natural enemies. While this will make them more buoyant in water, it slows down their movement when they are on land. The largest species of land snails can grow only up to 12 inches. The largest part of the body that does not come with a cover is its foot, which it uses to move around. On the front of the foot is its head, with a long tentacle on the top. The colors and shapes of their shell will vary from one another.

Curious Snail

A Curious Snail in the Garden on Green Leaf

Snail’s Habitat

Snails are common in environments with temperate and moist climates. Aside from fruit and vegetable gardens, they also commonly live in woodlands, marshes, and pond margins. In the garden, you will often spot them in crevices of trees, mulches, under the leaves, and in pots, among other locations. They prefer places that are dark and moist. In the winter, they spend their time under the soil to protect themselves from the freezing temperature. They emerge in spring.

Identifying Snail’s Damage

Plants Affected

Many of the species of snails are omnivorous, which means that they will feed on things that do not move, which will include decaying vegetation, leaf litter, and living plants. Different species may have different hosts. Generally speaking, however, most of them are common pests for cabbage, lettuce, beans, celery, radish, turnip, onion, and tomatoes, among others. They can also affect trees like apple, plum, peach, apricot, and citrus. For flowers, on the other hand, their hosts include zinnia, petunia, dahlia, aster, chrysanthemum, and carnation.


The following are some of the most common signs that snails are already affecting your plants:

  • Look at the leaves. The tender leaves will have large and ragged holes. The edges will look like they have been chewed. Because of these holes, the leaves are unable to fully maximize photosynthetic activity, and hence, they can also suffer from discoloration.
  • The fruits of the host plant will also be evident of the damage. The rasping mouth of the snail may make them produce holes and other cosmetic damages on the fruit.
  • There will also be silvery slimes that will appear on the different parts of the plant, commonly on stems and leaves. They can also appear on the soil.

Results of Infestation

The infestation of snails and slugs are similar in many ways. The most susceptible are the plants that are new or those that are just starting to grow. The feeding of snails will damage their different parts and will prevent the flow of nutrients to the entire plant. In turn, this will weaken the structure of the plant and will make it more susceptible to other problems as well.

Snails Damage

Hosta Plant Damaged by Snails and Slugs

How to Get Rid of Snails

Natural and Organic Solutions

The following are some of the best methods to make sure that snails won’t be too much of a problem in the garden and they won’t cause significant damages to your plants:

  • On the top of the list would be preventive measures, especially growing plants that can resist snails. Some of the examples of the latter include snapdragon, fennel, day lilies, house leeks, and nasturtium, among others. If you have the plants that belong to the hosts of snails, you can consider companion planting as the solution. With this, some of your best choices include mint, lavender, sage, and rosemary, among others.
  • Setting out traps in the garden is another effective way to control the population of snails. A beer pan is one of the simplest but most effective. All that you have to do is to pour beer in a shallow pan. Leave it for the night. The morning after, you can see how it traps the snails. Be sure to replace the beer daily to make it effective in attracting snails. Sprinkling coffee around the base of the host plant is also a good way to deter snails.
  • Using barriers will also be a good solution. You have to set up fences or covers that will prevent the snail from getting close to your plant. Sprinkling crushed eggs or putting sandpaper on the ground will help. They are sharp and can kill the snail. You can also cover the perimeter with copper to prevent the entry of snails.
  • Diatomaceous earth is one common garden pest solution that will work even for snails. They are made from diatoms that can poison snails upon contact. Be careful in its application as it can lead to side effects upon inhalation. Also, replenish the material routinely, especially after rain.
  • There are also biological controls that can yield favorable outcomes. You can either purchase natural predators and release them in the garden or alter the external environment and make it more attractive for the natural enemies of snails. Some of the best predators include toads, frogs, chickens, ducks, robins, turtles, and salamanders, among others.
  • Tilling the soil should also be included in your list of actions to prevent and control snails. This will expose the snails that are possibly overwintering or hiding under the ground. Be sure to handpick them and throw them in a bucket of soapy water. By doing this, you will prevent them from finding their way back to their host plant.

Chemical Solutions

There are different products that contain toxic chemicals. Some of them are effective, but the problem is that they can hurt even beneficial insects in the garden. They can also be toxic to the environment and even for humans, which makes it important to follow the instructions from the manufacturer with regards to its application.

Among others, metaldehyde is one of the most common chemicals for snails. Nonetheless, ingestion amongst mammals, including humans, can lead to kidney and liver damage, which makes it important to be cautious. Some of the brands using this chemical as the active ingredient include Bayer Ultimate Slug and Snail Killer and Westland Eraza Slug and Snail Killer.

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