There is a hidden danger that is posed by snails that we will discuss below, but first:
Every spring the snails start showing up everywhere in our lawn, garden, porches, sidewalks, trees, etc. They will be attacking our strawberries, herb garden, and patio furniture with mindless intensity unless we do something about it. There are three basic ways to discourage and/or control snails.
- The most effective and immediate way to get rid of snails is to use Metaldehyde poisoned bait. The problem is that it is dangerous to pets if they happen to eat it. The one that I use is Metarex because it has a bitter agent that dogs do not like, and it is formulated into very small, bright blue pellets. The pellets sink into the landscape and are hard for dogs to pick up. They also “paint” a dog’s mouth with the blue coloring. If you choose to use snail bait, you must first become very familiar with the label and use it carefully, following all label requirements.
- Two of the best organic snail and slug bait products on the market are Sluggo and Escar-Go which contain iron phosphate. Both claim to be safe to use around pets, humans, fish, birds, beneficial insects, and mammals. Iron phosphate is an organic compound that is found naturally in the soil, and if the bait is not consumed by a slug or snail it will break down and absorb into your soil. A lot of gardeners like Iron phosphate for its durability but it is rather expensive compared to metaldehyde baits and it is much slower working.
- There is a certain level of success in using “killer” snails. Decollate snails actually eat garden snails and can keep populations in balance. http://www.goodsnails.com is the website for a local decollate snail supplier. The difficulty in using decollate snails is one of supply and demand. There is a natural ebb and flow in the populations of each breed of snail and you never get total control like you can with baits. If you are using decollates you cannot use any other method of snail abatement besides hand picking them because anything that kills bad snail kills good snails also.
- Natural products are widely available for snail control, but are only marginally effective. If you are just protecting a balcony, it makes sense to use a salt perimeter spray, but that would not be helpful in a garden.
The hidden danger posed by snails: Rats and mice are attracted to properties that have a lot of yummy escargot. Roof rats especially like to eat snails and will find a nesting site near a plentiful supply of snails. If there are any openings into your attic or sub-area, rats will live there as long as they have a food supply nearby. One of the very important parts of rat exclusion is snail control.