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Maybe I figured how to control snails without poison (or ducks)

 
pollinator
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As creepy as it is, I feel like with this strategy it might be my first season without poison. It's still early to say, but so far they only ate one tomato and one pepper plant (like: to the ground...), and the rest seems to have survived.

Of course I try to make sure that wild snail eaters have some comfy habitats wherever possible. Sadly I don't have any farm animals that would eat them, but I "have" some toads, lizards and magpies. They rather prefer the snails with shells (also shells are some source of minerals for them, I guess), but if they really have to, they'll also eat naked snails.

First, I walk around the garden every rainy/misty morning, with my pruning scissors and a bucket. I collect the snails with shells into the bucket, and I cut the naked snails in half, with the scissors. The latter is definitely ugly, but it works. I couldn't look at it first, so I learned to "feel" if the cut is clean: preferably in the middle of the snail, and completely in half. I once overlooked one and made the cut too shallow, and it moved on... I felt sorry for it although it died soon anyway. When the snail is cut, there is goo coming out of it - and other snails find it very tasty. This means that they'll be busy eating each other for a while... and cleaning after themselves... which means there is no need to find all of them.

As for the ones that have shells, it's harder to cut them - they may hide into the shell and stay there being hurt and miserable. So I carry them in the bucket to one place where I have some bricks, and they get smashed quickly. The "snail puree" is a feast for many other little critters (including other snails, of course). Actually, they might also be edible for humans (I loved eating snail dishes in Spanish restaurants), but I fear that my neighbours might still be using poison so I don't know.

Recently, before the smashing, I placed them on a mangold leaf and they had a photo shoot. That makes them really happy because as soon as they come out, they start having group sex :P

I picked the most beautiful one and let it live under the wild rose bush. Maybe I'll select them for looks and I'll have more beautiful snails every year?

I also make beer traps, in places where I see larger colonies with lots of young ones. When it's not so rainy, they don't come out during the day so beer traps are more effective than collecting them.

I don't release them "to the wild" after listening to Lierre Keith's interview (she's the author of "The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability"), in which she said how she realized that she's disturbing those other ecosystems in this way; either by having "her snails" eat away the food of local snails, or just starving both populations, or making them eat all the plants. Another reason was research made by two biology students, who were studying small birds that nest in the grass. They discovered that some snails can eat the chicks from those nests!! Parent birds ignore the snails because they don't see them as a threat, and the chicks get eaten alive. Slowly.

So I decided to take responsibility for my own snails, which I, in fact, "bred" in my garden - by growing all the delicious plants, having lots of mulch etc.

Here are some orgiastic snails having fun on the mangold leaf:



I spared the red one on the bottom, because it was really pretty.

Edit: I noticed that the snails with shells rarely fall into beer traps; but that's okay because they're more attractive as food, for the wild critters.
 
Posts: 50
Location: Tampa area, Florida - zone 9a
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Wow!  I really enjoyed this post.  We have a lot of slugs here (naked snails...love that) and usually the local birds will come and have a feast, but I noticed lately they haven't come around as much.  I will keep your ideas in mind.
 
Flora Eerschay
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Haha, that's a direct translation from Polish ;)
 
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Location: Providence, RI, USA
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What a great post! Thanks for the experience. The most interesting, if ghoulish, part of the story is that the creatures are very happy to eat each other. It occurred to me, too, that you are potentially attracting more snail predators by making them easier to find, not to mention the fact that cannibalism can't be good for any species in the long run. Perhaps you are nurturing this taste for snail flesh in the surviving population. Wouldn't that be convenient?

My own "naked" snail population seems to be kept in check by the kind of mulch I use, salt marsh hay, which has traces of salt until the rain washes it away. Maybe that's the reason the large slugs I find around the yard never seem to make it to the tomatoes. I've been told that there isn't enough salt in it to create a problem for the soil. Only time will tell, I suppose!

Best wishes for your garden, Flora, and thank you for the fun story!
 
Flora Eerschay
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They easily switch from love-making mood to eating once their "friend" turns into a puree, but they probably won't eat each other alive. I read that some snails can eat the eggs of other snails.
Maybe the toads, lizards and magpies will hunt them more actively if the "snail meals" are more available here and there?
I also try to make my garden snail proof as much as possible, especially protecting things like salads.
 
Flora Eerschay
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I just had an idea... now that I think how delicious were the snails in Spain, and I was always excited to see the "¡Hay Caracoles!" sign outside restaurants. And the basic recipe is really simple.

Maybe I could make some "snail house" in the garden, separate from the rest, clear of any poison, and put them on some "quarantine" there?

But how do I know if these are really the edible variety?



I know there are many species of them.
 
Karl Treen
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This appears to be a good reference: https://www.snail-world.com/snails-as-food/

It suggests that garden snails can carry parasites and meningitis if not prepared properly. This sounds a little overly cautious to me. i am sure there are people all around France who do this. However, if this article can be believed, you definitely want to learn how to purge and cook them properly if you want to consider eating them.
 
Flora Eerschay
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Thanks! They could be Helix pomatia, Cepaea hortensis, and Cepaea nemoralis. All look edible but I guess it would be better to have a separate "snail pen" to have them for human consumption. I read that it's good to also have earthworms in it, so it could be combined with vermicomposting.

I know that some people deliberately infect snails with nematodes, to "naturally" reduce their population, which I didn't like. There are no heliciculture farms here, but snails can pass on the nematodes and infect other snails.

I'll probably leave mine to the critters, but now I'm even more motivated not to poison them. Here is an interesting article: Cooking garden snails
 
pollinator
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Haha, in German we also say "naked snail".

They are the biggest pest in my garden. The aphids are quite numerous right now, but this is temporary and they have enough predators. The slugs - not.
It depends a lot on the location, your climate and the soil. I know that in other parts of Germany they have very little problems.

I agree that patroling the garden is crucial.
I also cut them.
But I leave the snails alone. They have predators and are an important link in the nutrition chain: birds, insects (among them glow worms, solitary bees, ground beetles and others).

I am also happy to have grey leopard slugs that will feed on eggs of slugs. Only once have I found them nibbling plants in the greenhouse (when nothing else was available), but normally, even in rainy nights and tasty lettuce, they leave my veggies alone.

I add a link to the Wikipedia article about the limax maximus as you may not know it in the US:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limax_maximus

I also add an exclusive slug picture I took two or three years ago (I won't add descriptions as they might be blocked ...)

Mai2020_Tigerschnegel.jpg
Two leopard slugs and two little "bad" slugs
Two leopard slugs and two little
limax_sex.jpg
[Thumbnail for limax_sex.jpg]
 
Posts: 38
Location: Tahuya Washington
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I Have a premies friend thst cuts slugs in half in her garden.
That, along with collecting snails/slugs together and them eating each other may grow your nemotodes that are fatal to slugs too.
Do you know about slug-killing nemotodes and if they are native in the USA soil to grow your own?
Here is the thread I started on it if you want to hop over there to reply.
https://permies.com/t/142460/DIY-Slug-Killing-Nemotodes
 
Flora Eerschay
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Hi Julie, I don't live in the USA so I don't know about nematodes there... I'm not using them because I'm thinking to keep some edible snails too, maybe next season, and I'm not sure if it wouldn't hurt them.
 
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I have an approach that has been quite helpful to me, which is using copper mesh to deter slugs in the first place.  I've tried lots of things, both lethal and non, some of which work and some don't.  

The ones that work, but are lethal,  are:

beer traps
flashlight at night with scissors in hand

Ones that don't work are:
diatomaceous earth
crushed eggshells

one promising trick i heard but haven't tried is putting a board in the middle of the garden bed.  Slugs will crawl under it to hide.  scrape them off into your location of choice.

But copper has worked really well for me, both on my containers and my raised beds.  This approach could even be used to make "plant scrunchies" that wrap around the stem of the plant, but that seems like a lot of work. I made a facebook album about it that is public so I hope it works:  

https://www.facebook.com/rob.lineberger/media_set?set=a.10222610153064750&type=3


 
Julie Wolf
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Location: Tahuya Washington
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Rob Lineberger wrote:The ones that work, but are lethal,  are:

beer traps
flashlight at night with scissors in hand

Ones that don't work are:
diatomaceous earth
crushed eggshells

one promising trick i heard but haven't tried is putting a board in the middle of the garden bed.  Slugs will crawl under it to hide.  scrape them off into your location of choice.
But copper has worked really well for me, both on my containers and my raised beds.  This approach could even be used to make "plant scrunchies" that wrap around the stem of the plant, but that seems like a lot of work. I made a facebook album about it that is public so I hope it works:  
https://www.facebook.com/rob.lineberger/media_set?set=a.10222610153064750&type=3


Thanks for the concise lists of what worked and did not.  I am making DIY slug bait traps with 1 Pt yeast, 2 pts sugar, 2 pts flour in yougurt-type tubs with lids (stops rain) and side holes.  Nemotodes is my next new anti-slug try.
Checking out your Facebook - oops link broken.

 
Anita Martin
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Slug pressure is high in my garden so I have some experience with methods.

1. I can confirm that the board/plank approach works. Don't forget to check regularly!
2. For a vegetable garden, go out in the evening/ at night - especially when it is raining/humid - with a flashlight and scissors and cut them up. Do this on several nights in a row.
3. Plant out seedlings when they are a certain size (not too small and tender).
4. Grow certain varieties after the biggest pressure is over, e.g. I cannot sow carrots in spring as they will disappear immediately after germination. I am luckier starting May or June.
5. Distract slugs by adding layers and heaps of wilted vegetables, leaves, grass clippings etc. around your plants. The slugs will first eat the more tender (wilted) material where you ideally should remove them. Don't forget to replace material often.
6. Adapt! If certain veggies don't survive either give up or grow them in a very protected space.
7. Keep a diverse environment. Hedgehogs will not eat slugs but I have seen blackbirds eating small ones. Several beetles and snails feed on slug eggs. Here in Germany the limax maximus (leopard slug, which I have in my garden) and escargot snail (which don't thrive on my soil) keep check of the slug population.

I still have problems with slugs but I have learned my ways. And I have to be realistic as to what I can grow. Pumpkins are very difficult as are many flowers (Dahlias, larkspur, sunflowers, zinnias, lupines, bleeding heart etc. etc.), so I concentrate on plants that will likely survive.
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