Do Snails and Slugs Count as Garden Pests?

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Wed, Apr 13, 2016 @ 08:25 AM


California stays relatively warm year-round. You love the appealing temperatures and consistent sunlight. You especially love that you can keep a garden all year long-in fact, you enjoy eating fresh fruits and vegetables any time you want.

As you look at your garden, you notice that some of the plants seem a little odd in color. You look closer and see shiny, slimy streaks along the stems and leaves. You know that these signs likely mean you have snails or slugs in your garden.

But do these slow crawlers really pose a threat to the plant life on your property? Below, we'll discuss snails and slugs in depth so you know how to recognize these pests in your yard. Read on so you know what to do in the event of a slug or snail infestation.

Their Appearance

Slugs and snails look fairly similar. These pests are often referred to as land mollusks because they come from the same animal family as clams, oysters, squid, and octopus. Snails and slugs are the only members of this family that you'll ever find on land, though you'll most often find them in water.

Snails look ovular in shape, and range in size-these gastropods can grow up to 10 inches in length. The most prominent feature of snails however, is the coiled shell they carry on their backs. Snails also have two soft antennae on the top of their heads, and their eyes rest at the tip of the antennae.

Interestingly, snails have compound eyes. These eyes are made up of dozens of light-sensitive elements. Each element has its own refractive system that forms parts of an image, and these parts combine to allow the critter to see. This eye type and structure is commonly found on most insects (like flies) and a few crustaceans.

Slugs are incredibly similar to snails, but with a few key differences. Slugs don't have a shell on their backs at all. In fact, slugs have an internal shell that is either tiny in size or just a small remnant of the shell. Additionally, slugs can grow up to 15 inches in length.

Both snails and slugs range in color, from light yellow to black and dark gray.

Their Living Environments

Snails and slugs prefer to live in dark spaces in hot, humid climates. Since slugs don't have a shell on their backs, they can easily fit into tight hiding places. For example, you'll often find slugs hiding underneath loose tree bark and slabs of stone.

Snails are less flexible than slugs, however. Because they carry a large shell on their backs, snails can't easily hide in smaller spaces. But they can quickly retreat into their shells and use the structure for protection against predators. You'll also find snails in damp, dark places near a plentiful food source.

Their Preferred Food Sources

These critters will eat any type of vegetation-if they can digest it, they'll eat it. However, snails and slugs prefer to munch on the leaves and stems of the following kinds of plants:

  • Lettuces
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Petunias
  • Daisies
  • Dandelions
  • Primroses
  • Daffodils
  • Lilies
  • Irises
  • Strawberries
  • Cabbages Peas

Land snails and slugs often eat plant matter, while their water-living counterparts are carnivorous scavengers that eat anything they can find.

Their Effect on Plant Life

Snails and slugs might seem like harmless creatures, but they actually cause quite a bit of damage to plant life in your yard and garden. They'll often chew irregular holes in the leaves, stems, and stalks of plants. These irregular holes can cause severe damage to plants.  If a snail or slug eats the fruits or vegetables in your garden, that produce becomes inedible for humans.

What You Can Do to Keep Snails and Slugs Out of Your Garden

To prevent slugs and snails from eating your fruits, vegetables, and other plants, use environmentally friendly methods.

For example, you could crush up old eggshells and scatter the pieces throughout the soil. If you have potted plants, sprinkle the crushed shells in the soil and fertilizer as well. Snails and slugs don't like the sharp edges, so they'll stay away from your plants. The shells also add nutrients to the soil to help your plants grow. Additionally, you could add coffee grounds to the soil to further repel slugs and fertilize any plants.


If snails and slugs become too big of a problem in your garden or yard this season, don't hesitate to contact a pest control specialist. Find a company that emphasizes in green pest control solutions. These methods allow the experts to safely and humanely rid your property of pests while reducing your exposure to harmful chemicals.

If you have a large infestation of snails or slugs in your garden or yard, pest control experts are your most effective resource. These professionals can rid your yard of any size infestation and prevent future infestations from occurring.

Tags: pests