Slug and snail question

beatrice_outdoors(6a MA)September 23, 2011

Hi everyone,

I hope you don't mind my asking my question about slugs and snails here. If anyone has a suggestion for a more appropriate forum please let me know.

I have an abundance of slugs and snails in my garden (which is not a true woodland garden, but very shady). The snails and slugs are devouring every plant in one section, and now are multiplying profusely. I did a search on GW to see what others do to get rid of them, and I'm not all that happy with what I've read. To me, just because I plant a food they like does not mean I have the right to kill them. In a way I feel like I'm adding to the population by providing a good breeding ground and food source. The slug population is holding steady, but the snails are ever increasing.

I'm trying the preventative approach, putting down coffee grounds, pistachio shells, crushed eggshells, etc. I just want to keep them away, however my prevention is not sufficient. For each of the last three days I have picked up about 30 baby snails, and 10-15 adults. I admit to tossing them over the fence into the neighbor's yard, where the weeds are higher than the fence and I know they do not care about their property beyond the drunken parties around the fire pit. Not the best thing, I know, but it keeps my mind at ease and does not cause them harm, although it does not help my problem, because they all must be coming back!! Next door is not far enough.

So to my real question-what are your thoughts on a catch and release program? My city has a very large wooded area owned by the municipality. It seems like a good place to put the little guys and let them live our their portion of the circle of life. The days are getting shorter, and the nights colder, so hopefully the populations will decrease soon, but I want to be able to save whatever plants I can for now.

Part of the reason I am asking in this particular forum is to get the thoughts of those that truly live next to woodlands.

Thanks for any comments or advice.


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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I'm not sure that you're going to have too many ideas on a "catch and release" program for slugs and snails.

Why transfer a scourge from your gardens to another environment? I doubt that they are 'coming back' from your neighbor's property...they are simply multiplying like crazy. Slugs can lay as many as 500 eggs per season!

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 11:49PM
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beatrice_outdoors(6a MA)

You're right rhizo_1-I should have known better than to expect an answer other than kill them as maliciously or gleefully as I can, which is the primary answer when I did my search. Or to expect an answer at all. There is no snail sympathy in GW.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2011 at 8:36AM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

I guess sauteing them like escargot is out then?

Unless you know someone in the scrap copper business (slugs get a shock from copper and move on) any physical barrier will need to be redone as it weathers. Whether the ones you mentioned or diatomaceous earth, fine gravel or whatever.


    Bookmark   September 27, 2011 at 10:42PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I think that 'responsibly' is a better word than maliciously or gleefully. Surely you see the maliciousness behind releasing them in your neighbor's yard, no matter how weedy or drunken they are. Or setting them free in a community woodland?? C'mon, Beatrice.

If you don't want to have anything to do with reducing their population on YOUR property, I think that you will have everyone's blessing. But to take YOUR scourge and spread them around to others is truly....irresponsible, maybe mean.

Besides, how do you know that you aren't separating slug babies from their parents? How can you be certain that the kidnapped slugs won't starve a slow horrid death in a strange environment? What if your drunken neighbors use some of their beer to lure and kill YOUR slugs? That's death by proxy, I think.

Do you feel the same way about, say, aphids? Or rats that have invaded your home? I'll bet that you try to find the most environmentally friendly, yet efficient way to control such pests.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2011 at 10:48PM
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beatrice_outdoors(6a MA)

rhizo, the messages that came back from my initial search of GW included people laughing about how they throw snails into the air as far up as they can so they can listen to the crunch when they hit the ground, stomping on them, pouring chemicals on them and watching them writhe and die. I'd call that malicious. Sending them back to whence they came (the neighbor's overgrown yard) seemed like a more humane approach. Putting them into an area of 20+ acres of woods to live also seemed more humane.

As far as aphids and rats are concerned, yes, I try prevention first, then environmentally friendly if that does not work. Same thing when we were overrun by skunks one year, and racoons the year before, and squirrels this year. I just want them gone and living where everyone can be happy, I don't want them dead.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 7:26AM
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beatrice_outdoors(6a MA)

Thank you tsugajunkie. I was thinking prevention per plant, but you made me realize that through friends and networking over the winter, I may be able to collect enough copper to put a border around the entire area next year.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 7:29AM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Beatrice, if you don't get rid of what is there, a barrier around the area will only trap them in. Here where I am a two or three inch barrier of copper will work, but in other parts of the country (where the real honkers grow) would require four or more inches.

"Sending them back to whence they came (the neighbor's overgrown yard)"

That may justify it to yourself but it is hardly ethical. You do not know where they came from. And is flinging them into another's yard less painful to them than throwing them high to hear a crunch? (Not much of a crunch BTW, more of a poink)


P.S."That's death by proxy, I think" LOL, I love it.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 7:42PM
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beatrice_outdoors(6a MA)

tsugajunkie-the weeds over there are as high as the 6 foot fence, so it is a much softer landing. Nothing tossed over there died. Trust me. They have not mowed that area or cleaned up in five years.

I am assuming they came from that particular yard because A)there is a big gap under the fence (that I will cover with copper if I can get my hands on enough), and B) everything else on my side is grass and lawn and sunny. I just cannot see them coming from across a 1/4 acre of sunny lawn to chomp on daisies and whatnot.

"That may justify it to yourself but it is hardly ethical." And I realize that, which is why I am asking about the catch and release. I can't justify putting them into a neighbor's yard anymore even if they do live-it was never right to begin with and my conscience is not happy, but I told myself, at least they didn't die. If that was still an acceptable answer I certainly would not have put my decision up for scrutiny to people I don't know. I'll take the hit for being a bad neighbor. I am trying to stop my bad behavior and save my plants, and I can't in good conscience kill them. So I was hoping for advice on- What do I do???

I stepped on two of them yesterday figuring I'd "join the club", and it felt terrible.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 7:33PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I'm feeling like I've been trolled, lol!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 11:33PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

I just wanted to say that snails do indeed have a 'homing instinct' and will return from quite some distance. I live in a place with a huge snail and slug population. I can promise you that if you will not kill them then you must grow things they won't eat. In my experience in true gastropod country nothing will deter them other than death. Not coffee grounds, nor egg shells, nor grit, nor copper strips, nor beer traps (which kill them kindly). Rhizo's comment about the relocated animals starving is not as facetious as you may think. The reason you have lots of them is that you are providing perfect conditions for them. If you move them away those conditions will change and may well be deliterious (from a snail's point of view).

Here is a link that might be useful: snail's homing instinct

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 7:41AM
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beatrice_outdoors(6a MA)

The article is amazing. I guess it's the, "If you build it, they will come," theory of gardens and slugs. If I plant flowers to attract bees and hummingbirds then the side effect is I am attracting snails. I may have to do an experiment of my own, break out the nail polish, and toss them over the fence a few times and see what happens.

I also think it is great to see someone else as concerned as me about the snails' welfare, and it is funny to see the comment in the story about tossing them over the fence. I really did laugh out loud.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 4:17PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

The easiest way to trap slugs is to do what my neighbor does.
He puts large nursery pots throughout his garden and uses them as waste containers for empty beer cans. He recycles the beer cans, slugs and all, and gets the going price for aluminum for slug meat. They crawl in, but they don't tumble out. Sort of a slug motel. They check in, but they don't check out.
I'm not advocating what he does with the slugs, I'm just saying it's a good way to trap them. What you do after that is up to you...set em' free in the woods, e.g. Getting them out of the beer cans is the hard part. ;-)

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 4:07PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I don't know if I dare enter into this discussion. I just wanted to point out that even very humane, caring individuals sometimes have to make what seem like cruel decisions when nature gets unbalanced. The DNR encourages hunters to increase their "take" when the deer population gets too large. And it's for the deers' sake, to prevent so many of them from starving. I try not to kill anything, so I've learned to give up trying to grow anything that pests eat. But, if something is truly destructive, like chipmunks digging in my foundation, or nibbling the electric wires under the hood of my car, I find a humane way to end their life.


    Bookmark   November 13, 2011 at 9:54AM
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Slugs are a food source for skunks and raccoons, maybe that's why you had a problem with them. Toads and snakes like them too. Attracting predators of slugs is the most natural way to get rid of them. Have you considered chickens? They really like slugs.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 10:49PM
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>"Sending them back to whence they came (the neighbor's overgrown yard)"

Yeah. You watched them crawl from over there, did you? Do you really think they don't breed in your yard because you'd rather that they didn't?

You should stop weeding, because you kill plants when you do it, and you have no right to. You shouldn't dig to plant, either, because you are certainly severing living creatures in half when you do so. And even walking on the ground outside, you are killing many invertebrates with every trip to the garden. How can you ethically justify all this destruction just because you want something pretty to look at? What is wrong with you, that you don't think that nature is good enough for you? You should stop doing any kind of yard and garden work right now, before you kill more defenseless creatures. Your arrogance astounds me.

But if you are intent of continuing your wanton destruction, I think that you should definitely do a catch-and-release program. You should build the traps yourself--I should think that you need at least 30--and you should make sure to check them and release the trapped slugs and snails at least once a day--twice a day if it's sunny. And the location should be at least 5 miles away if in the city--10 miles in the country--in order to make sure they don't return.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 11:12PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

There was no need to resurrect this thread to add such an unpleasant post.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 2:18PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Amen, rhizo.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 9:46PM
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It may pay off to distinguish between different types of slugs and snails. Many types dont hurt the garden very much and they are important processors of dead matter! Of course there can always be too many but you really should target those which both destroy garden plants and proliferate quickly. This will make your task easier in the long run. We have quite a number of both snails and slugs but in our case they don't do much damage to the garden plants. Alternatively you could go for biological warfare: Get some hedgehogs or toads, they feast on slugs and snails.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 2:49PM
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