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SLUGS AND SNAILS CONTROL IN KENYA
Snails and Slugs
Slow as they may seem, a “cornucopia” of slugs or a “rout” of snails can quickly consume your garden. Especially in wet weather, these slimy visitors seem to appear out of nowhere, and they’re hungry.
But did you know that some snail species are beneficial? In Kenya, only a few species of snails and slugs actually damage living plants. Others live on fungi or decaying plant material, or are predatory and feed on other snails. These predatory snails are beneficial, helping us keep the true pests in check.
Snails & Slugs Biology
If your garden is plagued by snails and slugs, you know that they behave differently than other garden pests. This is because snails and slugs are mollusks, not insects. They are relatives of conch, oysters, clams, and scallops.
Most slugs and snails are omnivores, feeding on fungi, decomposing plants, and soil. Some feed on healthy plants, however, and these are the species that make pests of themselves in your garden. It’s unusual to catch them eating though; snails and slugs feed primarily at night. Lacking waterproof skin, they dry out quickly and prefer humid, wet environments. Because they do not have shells, slugs in particular must conserve moisture at all costs.
Snails & Slugs Identification
Damage from snail and slug pests appears as oblong, irregular holes at both the margin and the center of leaves and flowers. Thicker leaves may have damage on only one side. Oftentimes you’ll see trails of mucous around these damaged sites.
Being nocturnal, these pests aren’t always feeding when you’re scouting. Slugs and snails don’t usually go far though if they are indeed the culprits you’ll find them under pots, mulch, and leaf litter nearby.
For the most part, snails and slugs prefer natural, undisturbed areas. Only a few species are likely to be garden pests. And there are garden-friendly snails, too. Predatory snails, like the rosy wolf snail, feed on other snails and slugs.
To avoid killing the snails that help manage other garden pests, we encourage all gardeners to identify snails and slugs before attempting any control methods.
Another reason to have your slugs and snails identified is to help scientists track and eliminate invasive species. Slugs and snails reproduce by laying eggs but most adults are hermaphroditic. This means they are both male and female, making invasive species more difficult to eradicate. Even if you take no other action, sending in a photo to be identified can be very helpful to work with us.
They’re sneaky and they’re slimy, they make your plants look grimy, you want them to die timely, the slug and snail family! Can you tell that its the right around the corner? Well, just like ghosts and goblins, snails and slugs do their best work at night and can cause gardeners quite the fright! If you see shiny mucus trails, decapitated seedlings, and munch holes in leaves, it sounds like you have a scary snail problem. Yet the good news is, it’s fairly easy to stop snails and slugs in an organic manner.
About Snails and Slugs
Slugs and snails are common and frustrating garden pests. They are especially prevalent in climates with ample moisture or humidity, and exhibit peak activity during the wet seasons of the year. Yet even in the driest months, a well-irrigated garden provides snails and slugs prime habitat! During the daytime, snails and slugs take cover in dense shrubs, leaf piles, under logs, or other damp and dark locations. They can also survive freezing conditions if they hide well enough. At night, they emerge and feed!
Snails and slugs are part of the Mollusk family of animals alongside clams, octopus, scallops, oysters, squid, and chitons. The primary difference between slugs and snails is the hard exterior shell that snails don for protection. Slugs and snails are further classified as ‘gastropods’, which literally means stomach and foot. That description couldn’t be more fitting, seeing that these garden pests slide along on a muscular foot while munching on everything in their path! In addition to being ferocious eaters, snails and slugs rapidly reproduce. If their populations are left unchecked, they can cause serious destruction to your garden.
Plants Snails and Slugs Are Attracted To Snails and slugs aren’t picky eaters. They feed on both fresh and decaying matter, and will go after pretty much any tender herbaceous plant in the garden they can find. However, lettuce, cabbage, young seedlings, strawberries, beans, zucchini, cucumber, pepper plants, basil, and other leafy greens seem to be snail favorites.
Many flowers and ornamental plants are also highly attractive to snails and slugs, including marigolds, larkspur, dahlia, hostas, zinnia, sunflowers, succulents, and more. Soft new sprouts or leaves that are in contact with the soil or mulch layer are especially easy targets, though snails and slugs slither up into taller plants to graze on tender new growth as well.
What they don’t like?
In general, snails and slugs avoid tough, prickly, bitter, and or highly aromatic plants such as rosemary, catmint, and lavender. Apparently, they’re also not big fans of ferns, geraniums, columbine, hydrangeas, euphorbia, yucca, wormwood, begonias, or Japanese anemone. If you struggle with slug and snail control in your ornamental garden, choosing less desirable plants could be an easy solution!
How Snails and Slugs Damage Plants
The first telltale sign that you have snails in your garden is the silvery, slimy trail of mucus they leave behind. As they feed on plants, snails and slugs chew large holes in leaves. The holes are typically irregular in shape, and may appear in the middle of leaves or around the edges. In large established plants, snail damage to the outer leaves is unsightly but the plant can usually bounce back. However, if snails and slugs eat the centermost part of the plant where new growth is formed also known as the terminal bud, it could halt plant growth completely.
Young tender sprouts and seedlings are especially at risk, and may be consumed in their entirety in one night! In high enough numbers, snails and slugs can take out a whole bed of just-sprouted or freshly-planted seedlings. Unfortunately, that is the kind of damage you can’t bounce back from… That is why it is especially important to keep the snail or slug population under control in your garden, and to have tools and techniques to manage them ready and waiting come planting time!
Slugs and Snails Control in Kenya
When slugs and snails invade vegetable or herb gardens, however, they can cause major damage, consuming up to forty percent of their weight. Slugs and snails attack seedlings, roots, tubers and young plants, leaving large jagged holes and sticky deposits mainly on the leaves of herbs and garden vegetables.
Slugs and snails are terrestrial molluscs belonging to the Phylum mollusca, which also includes oysters, clams and crustaceans. During the day, slugs and snails hide in cool, dark places, under dead leaves, lumps of earth, rocks, mulch and wooden boards. When dusk falls, they emerge from their shelters in search of food. They are also more active under cloudy conditions or after a light rain. Their period of activity extends from about many months, after which they hibernate until the following spring.
Snails & Slugs Control
Remove their habitat. Get rid of anything that provides a cool, moist area for daytime hiding, such as fallen leaves, large pieces of bark, and old flower pots. Water plants only when needed, and do it early in the day so that the ground is dry by sunset.
Invite their enemies. Snails and slugs aren’t attracted to scented, tough- leaved plants like geraniums, so plant more of what they aren’t tempted to feed on. Also, consider peppering your garden and landscape with plants that attract natural snail- and slug-eating predators, such as toads, spiders, and birds.
Block them out. Protect especially vulnerable plants like hosts by placing a wide copper strip around the base of each plant so snails and slugs can’t get to them.
Kill them. Sprinkle snail and slug bait pellets on the soil around your plants.
Slugs & Snails Pest Management in Kenya
Integrated pest management, or IPM, is a comprehensive approach to managing plant pests. IPM uses many different methods to cause the least harm to people, property, and the environment. While there are chemicals available to manage snail and slug populations, we suggest beginning with cultural and mechanical management.
Cultural Practices: Snails and slugs require very moist environments. Reducing irrigation can make your garden less appealing. Removing excess leaf litter, mulch, wood, and stones from the base of your plants will also help. If these habitats can’t be removed, you can scout regularly and keep populations down mechanically. Encouraging biological control, by welcoming the predators that eat garden snails, is another cultural option. Identify your snails before you reach for a chemical control to avoid eliminating beneficial species like the rosy wolf snail.
Mechanical Practices: Slugs and snails can be trapped and removed easily. If you provide a shady, moist environment like a piece of cardboard laid on the ground they will hide underneath as the day warms up. Later in the day you can lift the cardboard and remove or kill them by hand. Another popular trap involves sinking a steep-sided vessel, like a cup, into the soil to about ground level. Fill the cup with beer or another bait. Slugs and snails will enter and remain trapped.
Diatomaceous earth and egg shells are reported to kill slugs and snails, too, but we have no research to support this claim. The logic is that these abrasive materials damage the pests’ soft undersides as they cross them. Another common barrier is copper, but in some regions it oxidizes quickly and becomes inactive.
Chemical Controls: Most people know salt is toxic to snails and slugs. Unfortunately, salting your garden will damage your plants. Apply enough salt and you can ruin your soil, too. Hydrated lime and sulfur dust can also deter slugs and snails but, again, they will also change the composition of your soil.
The pesticides that control snails and slugs are called “molluscicides.” These are commonly baits, which are a combination of a food to attract the snails and slugs that is mixed with a chemical substance that is lethal to them. Any molluscicide must be registered with the regulator PCPB and will contain a label with explicit instructions for use. Remember: the label is the law. To be used effectively and without unreasonable risk of harm to people or the environment these products must always be used according to the label.