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Insects and More – Snails

About

Snails and slugs are among the most bothersome pests in many gardens and landscapes. The brown garden snail, Cornu aspersum (formerly Helix aspersa), is the most common snail causing problems in California gardens. It was introduced from France during the 1850s for use as food. Another troublesome snail is the white garden snail, Theba pisana. It currently is established only in San Diego County but has been found in Los Angeles and Orange counties as well.

Several species of slugs also cause damage including the gray garden slug (Deroceras reticulatum,formerly Agriolimax meticulatus), the banded slug (Lehmannia poirieri), the three-band garden slug (L. valentiana), the tawny slug (Limacus flavus), and the greenhouse slug (Milax gagates).

 

IDENTIFICATION AND BIOLOGY

Both snails and slugs are members of the mollusk phylum and are similar in structure and biology, except slugs lack the snail’s external, spiral shell. These mollusks move by gliding along on a muscular “foot.” This muscle constantly secretes mucus, which facilitates their movement and later dries to form the silvery “slime trail” that signals the presence of either pest.

All land slugs and snails are hermaphrodites, so all have the potential to lay eggs. Adult brown garden snails lay an average of 80 spherical, pearly white eggs at a time into a hole in the soil. They can lay eggs up to 6 times a year, and it takes about 2 years for snails to mature. Slugs reach maturity after about 3 to 6 months, depending on the species, and lay clear, oval to round eggs in batches of 3 to 40 beneath leaves, in soil cracks, and in other protected areas.

Snails and slugs are most active at night and on cloudy or foggy days. On sunny days they seek hiding places out of the heat and bright light. Often the only clues to their presence are their silvery trails and plant damage. In areas with mild winters, such as southern coastal locations, snails and slugs can be active throughout the year.

During cold weather, snails and slugs hibernate in the topsoil. During hot, dry periods or when it is cold, snails seal themselves off with a parchmentlike membrane and often attach themselves to tree trunks, fences, or walls.

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