Slugs and Snails

Gastropoda

Slugs and Snails, Semi-Slugs, Snails, Slugs

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A close up photograph of a snail (gastropoda) on a rusty pipe
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Gastropoda is a taxonomic class of invertebrates comprising land, sea and freshwater molluscs. Stylommatophora is the largest group containing most of the air-breathing land snails and slugs, including over 20,000 species! In the garden, both snails and slugs can be a nuisance. Many are herbivores and aren't fussy eaters. They'll leave irregular holes in the leaves, stems and flowers. Damage is most common in spring when plants begin to produce new seeds and shoot tips.
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Traits

Snails and slugs are food for a variety of wildlife.
Some species can be annoying garden pests.

Appearance

They come in a variety of sizes and colour; they're extremely variable. Snails have shells whereas slugs don't. The body has a slightly wet/ slimy texture and is typically brown, grey or black. They have tentacles on the head which can be withdrawn. The mantle is the rounded, saddle-shaped part of the body found on the upper back of a slug. The tail of a slug/snail can be long and thin, or contracted and short. Beneath the tail is known as the foot which facilitates movement.

Symptoms

Snails leave behind trails of silver slime. Leave behind irregular-sized holes. Will eat flowers, seeds, leaves, stems and even bulbs.

Personality

Distribution

Worldwide

Biological treatment

Snails are so common that it's unlikely that any treatment applied will minimise damage. There are some preventative measures to help control their numbers in the garden: Attracting natural predators into the garden should always be the first course of action. This can be done by letting corners of the garden 'grow wild', plating a selection of pollinator-friendly flowers, or incorporating things such as birdbath, tables and boxes. Choosing to plant sturdier, established plants, as opposed to seedlings, will aid recovery from any damage inflicted. Keeping seedlings covered at first can offer some protection too. Barriers can be made around plants using lime, forest bark, crushed eggshells, wood ash, human hair and soot- but their effectiveness may be weather dependent. Buffer crops can help save prized plants, so by planting some extra lettuce you can Torchlight searches on a damp evening can be useful. Picking off snails and placing elsewhere, or on a bird table can help to prevent damage. Raking soil or picking up leaves can expose slugs to wildlife like birds. When digging in Autumn, make sure you're removing slug eggs as and when they're found. They're spherical and translucent. Beer traps can be left near vulnerable plants to trap slugs. These should be checked and emptied daily.
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Knowledge and advice

Search our ever-growing knowledge base to find plants and information. Find out about pests and diseases you should be keeping an eye out for. Watch How to videos or follow step by step guides for tasks in the garden. Free download for your phone or tablet.
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