UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County
University of California
UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County

Weeds & Pests

Snails and slugs in the garden

Slug feeding on strawberry
Snails and slugs can cause significant damage in the garden. They are most active at night and on cloudy days, and in southern California are active year-round. They prefer moist foliage and fruit, and will climb citrus and other trees to attack fruit. They chew irregular holes in leaves and flowers, and can eat seedlings to the ground. They leave a silvery mucous trail as they move, which is diagnostic for their presence.

A good management program relies on a combination of control methods. 
1- Eliminate hiding places as much as possible - remove boards, debris and routinely monitor dark, moist areas
2- Regularly collect them by hand and either squash them or throw them into the trash. Start by looking daily, then reduce to weekly monitoring. The best time to find them is early evening or even after dark
3- Trap them overnight in moistened, rolled up newspapers or under boards and throw them into the trash
4- Use barriers to keep them out of the garden where susceptible plants are. The most commonly used are made of copper
5- Bait them with beer in a deep, straight-sided container buried at ground level – the snails are attracted to the beer, cannot get out of the trap, and drown
6- Use commercial snail baits – organic baits with iron phosphate as the active ingredient, are safe for use around people, pets, and other animals
7- Plants with stiff leaves and highly scented foliage, such as lavender and rosemary, are resistant
8- Encourage natural enemies in your garden - toads, birds, turtles

Read more details about control methods for snails and slugs.

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