Slug fighting - what to do when a snail plague?

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If whole plants disappear overnight, one finds leaves and flowers eaten or the fruits hollowed out on the plant, snails are usually at work. Often the gardener even sees the gnawing traces of the malefactors or their greyish-green snail droppings on the plants they have eaten. Housing screws hardly cause damage in the garden. In addition, some snails such as the snail are under conservation and therefore may not be fought. For the Kahlfraß nudibranchs are usually responsible as the Arion or Deroceras species. The most common snail in the garden is the Spanish slug (Arion vulgaris).

way of life

Snails consist to a large extent of water (85%). However, you can not actively influence your water balance yourself. Therefore, they are preferably active in humid weather or at night. During the day or in drought, nudibranchs hide in crevices, under stones or in dense (moist) plant populations.


Snails are naturally hybrids, but all crawling snails are initially male. If two specimens of the same species meet, they exchange seeds among each other. Only now both snails develop into female species and fertilize the eggs formed with the seeds. Oviposition of 50-70 individual eggs takes place in regions where the eggs are protected against dehydration. Depending on the type of snail, several generations develop each year, which can lay up to 400 eggs. The hibernation takes place as a snail or egg. But even from temperatures of about 5 degrees, the snails are active again.

feeding behavior

Snails smell their food from a distance, because they smell very good. Often the snails find coveted plants already in the following night of planting. The snails can also migrate from more distant gardens, because although they appear very slow, they create over night but a distance of about 25 m.

Slug Control

Of course, no gardener likes it when his laboriously drawn little plants are destroyed by snails in the shortest possible time. One or the other snail is perhaps still to absorb, but a whole snail plague can not be tolerated in any way just like that. There are different ways to tackle the problem. A combination of several control methods works best.

Prevent immigration

From wet areas such as meadows or hedges the snails wander into the flower beds in the garden. Immigration can be prevented or severely restricted in these cases by a strip of water-removing or sharp-edged material at the border. The snails need a lot of mucus to overcome the barrier. These protective strips must be spread over the entire property boundary (or border) in a width of about 2 cm. Suitable materials:
  • Sawdust (very fine)
  • Sand (sharp as quartz sand)
  • quicklime
  • broken egg shells
  • Urgesteinsmehl
  • sharp-edged mulch
In damp weather, however, these protective strips are quickly ineffective and need to be renewed. Therefore, so-called worm fences have been established in snail control as effective. Worm fences are bent sheets that are pressed into the ground around the area to be protected - and without any gaps. At the beginning it is necessary to catch all snails inside the closed area.

Promote natural enemies


There are a number of natural enemies for snails. For snail control it is therefore useful to provide these animals with appropriate protection and suitable habitats available.
  • Hedgehogs: Rice piles, hedgehog caves
  • Birds: nesting possibilities
  • predatory beetles: Insect hotels, old trunks, rotten wood, leaves or twigs

Absorb by hand

Most of the snails are traveling at night or on wet days. Therefore, it is possible to go hunting in the dusk with a flashlight and to collect them from the plants. However, gardeners in this case are faced with the question of what to do with the collected snails.
  • cut through
  • freeze
  • pour boiling water over it
  • feed on chickens or ducks
If you do not want to kill the snails you have to put them away again. Neighbor garden is not enough in this case, because then the snails are back in no time.
Tip: If you lay out wooden boards, old bricks or an old plastic bag and keep the floor moist, you can do without nightly searches because the snails use these areas for their day quarters and can be easily collected there.

Set up snail traps

Although snails can be bought in any garden market for a few euros, this is not necessary.With simple means, every gardener can easily build effective snail traps himself. For a garden of about 100 m² about 20 snail traps are necessary. That means about two hours of effort, but brings a lot.
  • Already in the spring before planting put a black foil (or board) on the beds and lay vegetable waste underneath
  • Place sliced ​​peppers or hollowed tomatoes in a moist, shady place
  • put inverted flower pots over vegetable waste
  • Add beer bottle or glass two-thirds deep into the ground and fill with a little beer; Beer traps work best in combination with a worm fence

Preventive ground measures

Even with a targeted care of the soil, a snail plague in the garden can be greatly decimated. From autumn, the beds are no longer processed. During this time, the snails lay eggs once more, from which the next generation will hatch next spring. Snails lay their eggs in cavities in the soil to protect them from frost. The gardener can break this cycle by treating the ground several times in the winter with a rake (cultivator). So the snail eggs are transported to the surface and freeze, dry up or are eaten by animals.


The use of nematodes is a very effective and environmentally friendly (but expensive) option for controlling slugs. In snails, for example, Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita can be used. The nematodes are tiny roundworms that invade the snails and kill them within a week. Nematodes are cultivated by special-purpose companies and supplied as granules for dissolution in water. The nematode fluid is then poured onto the bed. However, the agent does not work optimally against the Spanish slug and must therefore be applied several times every few weeks.

Liverwort extract

An animal-friendly and environmentally friendly measure against a snail pest is sprinkling the plants with a mixture of liverwort extract and water. Snails avoid plants treated in this way, even if no other source of food is available to them. In the course of their development, mosses have developed antibodies against molds and bacteria, and liverwort also against snails. The dosage is done "by feel". Almost no manufacturer gives exact dosage recommendations for the product, but an overdose of liverwort is almost impossible. It is best to start with a small amount and increase the dosage as needed. Liver moss extract must be used early and regularly. For a first orientation, add about 5 ml of extract to one liter of water and spray on the plants at weekly or biweekly intervals.

Chemical control


Chemicals against snails are usually in pressed form, so-called slug pellets, in the market. Slug pellets may contain different active ingredients that kill the snails. Most of these poisons are effective when taken orally, but there are also contact poisons that are absorbed through the mucous membranes. Poisons should always be used as a last resort, if nothing else works. Because if other animals eat the poisoned snails, they can die too. Many of these poisons also have a harmful effect on people. Who uses snail grain in the garden, should do so very controlled. The snail grain is best not applied to the garden soil, but deposited in split traps.
  • Methiocarb (trade name "Mesurol"): nerve agent that can damage not only snails but many other animals as well; the drug causes respiratory paralysis in humans
  • Methaldehyde: removes water from snails and kills them (may be fatal for children)
  • Ferric phosphate ("ferramol"): biologically compatible substance; Snails that have eaten iron (III) phosphate retreat and die a few days later as their water balance is disturbed
A promotion of beneficials, Absammeln, worm fences or snail traps should curb the plague usually so far that chemical agents are no longer or only very limited necessary. The fight against snails should always be started very early, especially after a mild winter. Best already when the outside temperature exceeds the 10-degree limit. In these cases, large snail plagues can not even form.

Tips for quick readers

  • mostly nudibranchs are responsible for the damage to plants
  • they are nocturnal and prefer a damp, shady shelter during the day
  • Nudibranchs lay up to 400 eggs
  • start combating very early (February)
  • Immigration by barrier of sharp-edged materials around the beds restrict
  • create optimal conditions for predators
  • Apply foil, inverted flowerpots or wooden boards
  • including snails while daytime collecting
  • Insert snail traps
  • Deploy nematodes against snails
  • Spray liverwort extract on the plants
  • rake the garden soil several times in winter (conveys the snail eggs to the surface)
  • Use chemical agents only in exceptional cases
  • It is best to use several methods simultaneously

Video Board: 10 Methods To Combat Snails And Slugs || Ecologic || Toni's Organic Vegetable Garden.

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