While slugs and snails do little damage to our lawns they will attack many annual bedding flowers, hostas, and other perennial plants in the landscape. Besides the damage caused to plants their unsightly slimy, silvery trails are left behind on sidewalks, edging, etc. Snails and slugs are mollusks and closely related to oysters so they thrive in moist, protected areas generally with heavy accumulations of decaying organic matter. Their long, fleshy, slime-covered bodies are jointless. Their heads have a pair of sensory tentacles and eyes on extended “eye stalks” that they can retract. They feed mostly at night so they can go unnoticed before becoming quite numerous in beds having dense plantings, heavy mulch and leaf litter. Spring weather conditions are ideal for population explosions as there is usually plenty of moisture and tender vegetation present.
Limiting habitat conditions of excessive moisture, excessive leaf litter, heavy mulch, fallen limbs, rocks, and flower pots that provide daytime hiding places will discourage their presence.
Physical removal may be a practical control option for small areas but in larger beds and landscape settings baits will be required. Shallow dishes of beer placed in beds are effective in small areas where they can be checked often to remove the drowned slugs and replenish the beer but specially formulated baits containing metaldehyde or iron phosphate are more practical in larger areas. Metaldehyde can be toxic to pets and wildlife so care should be used in applications. Repeated bait applications are required as the baits tend to lose their effectiveness after rains or prolonged periods of sunlight.
Published April 29, 2013
Dr. Wayne Wells is an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist. His mailing address is Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mail Stop 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762. firstname.lastname@example.org