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Pest of the Month

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Snails and slugs

Brown garden snail.
Copper barrier on tree trunk.

Snails and slugs rank among the most disliked pests in California gardens. These slimy mollusks emerge from hiding at night and chew holes in leaves, flowers and fruit of many plants. The silvery, slimy trails they leave behind distinguish their damage from that caused by other pests that chew holes such as earwigs or caterpillars.

Management tips

Managing snails and slugs requires an integrated program involving several strategies.

  • First, it is important to remove daytime hiding places such as ivy, weedy areas, or garden debris (unused pots, boards, etc) as much as possible. Snails and slugs require a moist surface for mobility throughout a garden, so installing drip irrigation that keeps soil surfaces dry will limit their ability to disperse.
  • To keep snails and slugs out of trees or raised beds, consider applying a 3- to 4-inch-wide barrier of copper foil, which mollusks will not cross.
  • Trapping snails and slugs is also an important part of an IPM program. Snail and slug traps are sold in stores or you can make your own out of boards. Kill captured snails by crushing or dropping them into a bucket of soapy water.

What about baits?

Baits can be part of an IPM program but they won't be very effective unless you also reduce shelter, food and moisture for the pests. Baits containing iron phosphate are the best choice because they are safe for people, pets and the environment. Metaldehyde baits are especially toxic to dogs and birds. Scatter bait around sprinklers and in moist and protected areas where snails and slugs travel.

Learn more about managing snails and slugs in the Snail and Slug Pest Note.


Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

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