FLORIDA –– Snails and slugs are common in our Florida landscapes. But their control requires an understanding of their habits.
Snails and slugs are similar as far as their habits and habitats are concerned. But there are differences in their appearance.
A shell protects a snail’s soft body. There are many different kinds of snails, though. The shape, size, and color of their shell vary. Some are tiny (less than an inch in length, while others reach lengths of up to eight inches.
Some are round, and some are elongated. Colors range from off-white to brown or black, while some are striped or mottled with contrasting colors.
Slugs do not have shells. They are usually mottled in shades of gray but may be whitish-yellow, brown, or black. Slugs vary from one-half inch to four inches in length.
Snails and slugs like to feed on seedlings, flowers, vegetables, and shrubs. In greenhouses, they attack young seedlings and the more succulent parts of mature plants. They annoy homeowners with their presence around foundations, on walls, and windows.
These mollusks are often found on molds, decaying organic matter, and the foliage of plants. They require large amounts of moisture to survive and prefer darkness. In fact, slugs are nocturnal, coming out of their hiding places in the evening to feed.
They chew ragged holes in leaves and return to their hiding places in the early morning.
Favorite hiding places are under old, decaying boards and logs, in rock piles, and beneath damp refuse. Slugs leave a silver-colored, slimy trail wherever they travel. Trails can be spotted on foundations, walls, and walks.
The elimination of slugs and snails begins with the destruction of their hiding places. Remove rotted boards and debris from the premises. Keep the area around flowerbeds clear of trash. In greenhouses, check under rotted boards, flowerpots, and debris beneath benches.
Bait for slugs and snails is the recommended chemical control. These baits should be placed on the soil surface in the vicinity of the plants being eaten late in the day.
Do not use the bait just before rain or irrigation because its effectiveness will be reduced by getting wet. Because snails and slugs feed intermittently rather than every night, the bait should be distributed at seven to ten-day intervals until control is achieved.
Some snails and slugs are considered beneficial. Always be responsible with your pest control efforts and follow label directions and precautions when using any pesticide.
Here is link to a UF/IFAS publication with more information on snails and slugs:
Larry Williams is the Extension horticulture agent with the Okaloosa County Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida. Contact Larry at 689-5850 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.