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Controlling Slugs and Snails

Some slugs and snails are native and deserve our protection. But many species are invasives -- and they seem to be the most prevalent in urban settings. Safely controlling slugs and snails is a gardener's yucky challenge. These ravenous creatures devour seedlings, strawberries, hostas, dahlias and many other plants. The slimy slugs and snails can infest a garden and do serious damage.

It's time to save your garden. First, identify the culprit -- is it really a slug or snail? Slime trails are a good clue. Slugs and snails range in size from a small speck to several inches in length. They are typically gray, brown or black.

Snails have a shell. To find them look under garden debris, under rocks, at the base of plants or any other cool, moist spot. If you are still not sure after inspecting the garden, talk to your local garden center.

Common methods used to control slugs and snails include beer traps, squishing them, or sprinkling them with salt -- all barbaric methods to be sure! Traditional snail or slug bait contains metaldehyde, but while effective, it can be toxic to pets and wildlife, sometimes cuasing death. Always check on the front of the package to see what the active ingredients are. Know your chemicals!

A new bait can be found in garden centers with iron phosphate as the active ingredient. Iron phosphate doesn't harm pets and wildlife. It's patented formula known as Ferramol (TM), has proven to be as effective as the metaldehyde bait in controlling both slugs and snails of all sizes. It even holds up in rain.

Iron phosphate acts as a stomach poison specific to slugs and snails without posing the same threat to dogs, cats and wildlife. When a slug or snail eats the bait, they stop consuming plants immediately. Unlike metaldehyde baits, slugs and snails will go away and hide to die. That means no dead bodies or slime trails. This product is used by private gardeners, commercial growers, environmental groups and government agencies.

Iron phosphate baits are sold under several brands including Sluggo by Monterey; Lilly Miller Worry Free-Ferramol, Garden Safe Slug & Snail Bait, Bayer Dual Action Snail & Slug Killer Bait, and Bonide Slug Magic. Most garden centers will cary at least one of these brands. Each of these brands is equally effective.

These products are used by scattering the bait pellets around the soil of plants. It can effectively control slugs and snails in lawns, gardens, greenhouses, outdoor ornamentals, vegetable gardens, fruits, berries, citrus and crop plants. There is no waiting time between application and harvest. Uneaten bait biodegrades, and the iron and phosphate can be used by plants as nutrients.

Ferramol was developed by the German company, W. Neudorff GmbH KG, known for their environment-friendly gardening philosophy.


Even slugs and snails have stories to tell. Their stretchy ways and slow movements hide amazing talents of stretching, shrinking, and sliding across rough surfaces. Watching a snail with a child is a bonding experience.


Learning which "pests" are native to your area helps you understand more about your ecosystem and how every member of the community works hard to keep things in balance. Invasive species upset that balance. Knowing which wildlife to protect and which to remove is a major contribution to our conservation contribution.


How can you learn about native slugs and snails? The Web has made learning about everything a lot easier. Some key words to search for include: native snails, native wildlife, integrated pest management, mollusks


What WILL you do today to move toward your goal? Even one small action today makes a difference. And you can add a little tomorrow and the next day... Together we will restore our environment in our community and around the world.

For more articles about CONSERVATION & GARDENING

When is a plant a weed?
Saving Topsoil
Controlling Slugs and Snails
California Heritage Gardens
Walk Gently with the Earth
Weather and Temperature are Linked to Landscaping