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       Slugs and Snails in the Vegetable Garden

Gerald M. Ghidiu, Specialist in Vegetable Entomology


   Slugs and snails both feed on young, succulent plants and seedlings, particularly during wet or moist             conditions, or in areas that have been well irrigated. Slugs and snails have rasping mouth parts, and damage plants by scraping plant tissue, leaving irregular-shaped holes in leaves, flowers, stems and fruit. During severe infestations, leaves may become shredded. Snails and slugs leave a clear or silvery slime trail on stones, walks, soil, plant foliage, and fruit, often seen before their damage is observed.


   Several species of slugs can be found in the garden. The gray garden slug (the smallest) is dull gray with black spots, and 1 to 2 inches long. The spotted garden slug is grayish with black spots or faint black longitudinal bands on its back, reaching almost 4 inches in length.
   Three species of snails are commonly found in

vegetable gardens: brown garden snail, European garden snail, and decollate snail. All are smaller than slugs, and the two garden snails have a rounded or globular spiral shell, while the decollate snail has a cone-shaped spiral shell.

Life History:

   Slugs and snails are found in moist, shaded

locations, or areas that have many weeds or organic trash. Most species overwinter in the egg stage, hatching in early spring and feeding immediately. most species live one season or less, and adults may deposit eggs throughout the season.

Nonchemical Control: 1. Slug populations can be reduced by good garden sanitation (foliage, trash, and weed removal) to improve air movement and ventilation and to reduce moist habitats. Fruit-laden plants, such as tomatoes, should be staked to keep fruit from contacting the ground. 2. Slugs are mainly a problem during a wet season or in the spring. Hand picking, especially at night or during early morning, is tedious but effective. 3. Since slugs and snails like to congregate in sheltered areas, place small, thick wooden boards on the soil surface of infested areas and check under them during the day to remove and destroy slugs. 4. Grapefruit skin can be placed in the garden upside down on the soil surface. Slugs are attracted to, and will congregate under them. Turn over and remove slugs each day. 5. Wood ashes can be sprinkled around plants to discourage slugs and snails. A ridge of ashes, 1 inch high and 3 inches wide, is an effective barrier. Rain or irrigation impairs the performance of ash barriers.

6. "Snailproof," a commercial product consisting of ground incense cedar sawmill byproducts, is effective as a ground covering.

7. Home remedies such as wine, vinegar, ground glass, sand barriers and ethyl alcohol traps are not effective and dangerous. Chemical Control:

1. Poison baits, called molluscicides, are available for slug and snail control in home gardens. Ready-to-use baits containing metaldehyde (Buggeta, Deadline) and carbaryl (Sevin Bait) are available at garden supply centers, hardware stores, etc.

2. Pesticide sprays and dusts are generally ineffective, partially due to the protective layer of slime covering these pests.

3. Slugs are attracted to stale beer. Bury pie tins in the soil so the lip is just below the soil surface, then fill with beer. Remove drowned slugs from the pans each morning. Empty the beer and refill every 3 to 4 days.

*Information in this reference appears with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by RUTGERS COOPERATIVE EXTENSION IS IMPLIED.

                    NEW BRUNSWICK

Distributed in cooperation with U.S. Department of Agriculture in furtherence of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Cooperative Extension work in agriculture, home economics, and 4-H. John L. Gerwig, Director of Extension. Rutgers Cooperative Extension provides information and educational services to all people without regard to sex, race, color, national origin, or handicap. Rutgers Cooperative Extension is an Equal Opportunity Employer. 

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