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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - May 06, 2009

From: Kingwood, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests
Title: Snails in my flower beds
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in Kingwood, Texas (north of Houston). I have been inundated with snails in my flower beds in my front & backyard. I really didn't want to use a pesticide, but they were eating all of my flowers, pumpkin vines, watermelons, etc..so I gave it a try-- for months. Still these snails thrive. Is there something natural, other than hand harvesting the snails that I can use?

ANSWER:

Yuck! Have you ever wondered if they are alien invaders working undercover? We really hate them, too. The best website overall we have found on getting rid of the little monsters is this University of California Integrated Pest Management site Snails and Slugs. Read the information about pesticides very carefully, some of them can be lethal to other creatures.

In reading through that and several other websites, we think some of the best ideas we found included not leaving anything, like a piece of wood, on the ground where they can hide from the sun during the day. Of course, we've all heard the "beer in a saucer" trick, where they fall in and die. Our only problem with that is what you do you with a saucerful of beer and dead snails? One person said he liked to throw them out in the street and listen to their shells crack. An old favorite is sprinkling diotomaceous earth (DE) around under the leaves where they like to lurk. Supposedly this strips off some protective covering and they ooze to death. You must be very careful with the DE, though. It is composed of fossil algae, tiny, and inhaling it can strip some protective covering from your lungs, too. Seriously, wear a mask, or sprinkle very carefully. Whatever you choose will have to be redone after every rain, and you need to keep any litter, like leaves or wilted flowers, etc. cleaned up off the garden floor. With that sort of thing on the ground, they can have a snack and a nap in the shade, too. 

 

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