What are Garden Snails?
Garden snails are hermaphrodites, meaning they can be both male and female. The initial movements generally involve the head emerging, then an extension of the tentacle or eyestalk. The maximum speed of a garden snail is .029 miles per hour. They slide using a single foot, but this movement requires a wet or humid environment. If the area is too warm, the snail will dry out.
Garden snails can travel anywhere including upside down and over sharp objects. Even if the snail slides across an extremely sharp object such as a razor blade, it will not sustain any damage.
Identifying Garden Snails
Garden snails breathe air with just one lung. The body is soft and brownish, covered by cream or yellow shells with spiral brown stripes and a slimy mucus. The height of the shell is approximately one inch, with a width of roughly 1.5 inches. The shape of the shell is spherical with a rough surface and four to five spirals. Garden snail colors vary from light to dark brown with yellow or brown stripes.
The edges of the large shell opening are white. Garden snails remain within the shell when sensing danger but emerge to feed. This pest has hundreds of sharp radula or teeth attached to the tongue. The foot is muscular and flat to enable movement with a gliding motion. A trail of mucus is left behind as this is required for decreasing friction.
How Long Do Garden Snails Live?
The questions of how long garden snails live is answered by examining their lifecycle. The life cycle begins when two snails mate to provide a set of eggs. The garden snail eggs develop through fertilization. Most species produce a maximum of 100 eggs, but some can produce as many as 400. The tiny garden snail eggs are dropped into moist dirt then covered. They hatch in about four weeks.
Prior to the mating process, a nest is built until a hole between two and four inches is created for placing the eggs. The diameter of the eggs is three to six millimeters, including the protective viscous coating. Most garden snails’ eggs do not reach maturity. Many are washed away by water or rain or consumed by predators despite their protective layer.
The development of the shell occurs inside of the egg when the pest is still an embryo. When the conditions are favorable, garden snail eggs hatch within two to four weeks. The emerging snail has a soft shell. The shell hardens by consuming calcium found in the eggshell and some of the unhatched eggs. The body is transparent, becoming stronger and obtaining color with growth.
The shell initially turns blue, then will change to the permanent color of the species. Despite the fast growth, most live less than a year due to predators and incomplete development. The growth of the shell continues throughout the life of the snail. Just like with trees, the age is indicated by rings. In human terms, the answer to how long garden snails live is longer than many other garden pests.
Depending on the species, garden snails can live for two to seven years in the wild. The life span increases to between 10 and 15 years in captivity. Some species can live even longer.
What Do Garden Snails Eat?
Garden snails consume a wide range of food in their natural habitats. The specific foods are dependent on both the area and species. The most common foods include fruits, algae, plants and vegetables. Soil or sand are consumed for the calcium required to thicken the shell. Garden snails also feeds on dying plants. The majority are herbivores, but certain species are omnivorous or carnivorous.
The eating habits of every species vary depending on nutritional needs, habitat, age and size. Snails are attracted to gardens because of the fresh leaves and plants. The question of what garden snails eat is different for herbivores. This species consumes numerous parts of plants including the leaves, fruits, stems and bark in addition to mushrooms and fungi.
Carnivore garden snails consume different kinds of small animals including earthworms, slugs and mollusks. Omnivores consume animals and plants with a preference for terrestrial animals, making them predators.
The Rumina decollata species eats worms, annelids, slugs, other conch species and occasionally plants. Every species requires foods rich in calcium to ensure their shells remain hard. Food is located using a well-developed sense of smell. Garden snails are nocturnal, and search for food at night or during the early hours of the morning. When winter is near, more food is consumed for fat reserves during hibernation.
If the sources of food dwindle during the spring or summer months, the garden snail may place their body into an estivation state. This is like hibernation, enabling the snail to survive during severe droughts or conditions.
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What Does Garden Snail Damage Look Like?
The most common damage resulting from garden snails includes:
- Big, ragged holes in flowers and tender leaves
- Silvery traces of slime
- Seedlings with small stems remaining
- Extremely small, scalloped edges
A lot of the damage occurs in the spring when most insects are still inactive. Silvery slime is often seen on the ground or chewed leaves. Seedlings are completely stripped down to tiny stems. Holes appear in flowering spring bulbs, cannabis, asparagus, lettuce and numerous other plants. Very small, scalloped edges appear on leaves, or the leaves are consumed with a series of small bites.
How to Get Rid of Garden Snails Naturally
There are numerous options for how to get rid of snails in the garden including:
- Growing plants resistant to snails
- Killing them manually
- Changing the schedule for watering
- Destroying the eggs
The liquid form of iron phosphate makes the best bait. Other options include a mixture of sugar or honey and yeast or grape juice. Begin by filling a jar with a wide mouth, or a bowl 50 percent of the way with bait. Burying the container a little makes the bait easier to reach since the snails can simply crawl in. When they emerge, they will be enticed by the bait, crawl in and drown.
Homemade traps are effective for garden snails including boards, overturned flowerpots and inverted halves of grapefruits. The scent of grapefruit will attract snails. They become trapped after crawling beneath the halves and die. Inverted cabbage leaves, orange rinds and melon are also effective traps. Overturning a flowerpot accomplishes the same thing.
Garden snails are attracted to overturned and tilted flower pots as the ground beneath them tends to remain moist. The flowerpots must be left in place overnight in the infested area to trap as many garden snails as possible. A board is effective when placed on the ground. During the night, garden snails will hide beneath the board after feeding. Once the sun has risen, they can be removed simply by lifting the board up and doing what you will with them.
A sheet of carpet or black plastic can also be used as an alternative. Inverting almost any vessel such as a saucer is a good trap. Simply fill the saucer with food items or leaves to attract the garden snails. The snails become trapped inside and die. Another option is eliminating garden snails by inviting animals into your garden that feed on them such as frogs, toads, birds, lizards, snakes and ground beetles.
The best time to get rid of garden snails is either late at night or during the early morning because this is when they are the most active. Gardens become less attractive to snails when watered in the morning as opposed to in the evening. Snails do not like dryer climates or soil.
Learning how to get rid of snails in the garden often means tilling the garden on a regular basis to destroy the eggs. This is because garden snail eggs are laid on the soil’s surface. This means either plowing or tilling the soil will destroy the eggs, eliminate the debris frequently used as a hiding place, and ensure the conditions are not favorable for both snails and slugs. Once this process is complete, materials including wood chips or gravel can be introduced around the perimeter of the garden to deter snails from trespassing.
How to Prevent Garden Snails Naturally
The best way to prevent snails includes options such as:
- Apply Trifecta Crop Control as a preventative
- Create a barrier
- Diatomaceous earth
- Electronic fence
- Snail resistant plants
Allowing infestations to occur are not worth the stress it will place on you or your plants. The most effective method is preventing snails from ever becoming a problem in the first place. The essential oils in Trifecta Crop Control have been proven to be highly effective to repel all kinds of problem pests, including snails. Apply as follows or click here to view and/or download our complete Application Guidelines.
- .5oz per gallon applied once per week during veg
- 1oz per gallon applied once per week during flower up to 2 weeks before harvest
The best material for the creation of a garden snail barrier is copper. This is because an electric shock is created in the pest’s body when it connects with the metal.
Diatomaceous earth is non-toxic, and a good repellant for snails. There are sharp edges in the powder, capable of cutting into the body of the pest. Simply sprinkle this material around the area with the infestation. An effective barrier can also be created with lava rock, coffee, sage, vinegar, crushed eggshells, sandpaper, ginger, mint or garlic.
Certain substances will not only repel the pest but will kill them as well. All these substances are effective in any area frequented by the garden snails. These substances can also be sprinkled into the water source or around the garden.
A basic electronic fence is an excellent repellant or barrier. The body of the pest suffers from an unpleasant sensation due to the electricity, causing them to leave. The fence is safe for many other animals because the current is not felt by any of the larger species.
Seaweed is also effective because the saltiness of the plant is unappealing to these pests. If there is a pond in the garden, seaweed can be used to make the area inhospitable to the garden snails.
Certain plants are garden snail-resistant such as aromatic herbs including sage, rosemary and lavender. The best plant options include California poppy, begonia, nasturtium. Impatiens, geranium, fuchsia, lantana and purple robe cup flower.
The best way to keep gardens snail-free is with a combination of the options described above.