Snails and Slugs: Harmful or Deadly?

I am in my backyard playing with my daughter when I see holes in my wife’s tomatoes plants and a snail fleeing the scene of the crime. Living in the South I had always seen slugs and snails around the lawn. Not really thinking anything of it until know I looked to find what damage are these animals really doing.

Slugs and snails can be damaging to parts of your lawn. Grass is generally healthier as slugs and snails droppings are rich in nitrogen and other nutrients, however to fruits, vegetables and shrubs they can be deadly. Slugs and Snails can be harmful to outdoor pets as well.

If you’ve gone to the effort of growing a lawn, you want to make sure that you are taking care of it properly. One of the best ways to make sure that you’re taking care of everything is keeping insects away from the lawn. In this area, there are some good reasons why you might want to keep slugs and snails away from your garden. Let’s look at some of the potential harm that these animals can cause.

Snails and slugs Can Help Grass

As I mentioned before, slugs and snails can be healthy for a lawn in several ways. While these are few and far between, it is worth mentioning that these animals do have their place in the ecosystem and may not be necessary to get rid of in every case.

These insect like mollusks tend to be in areas that are high in moisture and relatively cool between 62 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit. This type of habitat is often found to be in the undergrowth of wooded areas. This can be great for a forest as they can assist in the breakdown of dead plant matter accelerating the life cycle of the ecosystem and provide healthy new soil for new growth.

While snails and slugs are good at assisting breakdowns of plant matter their droppings are rich in nutrients and nitrogen. These, as you know are key factors in the health of every plant and can provide critical nutrients to many of the living things around them.

Now that we have talked about the good, lets talk a little bit about how much harm they can do if these animals get into your yard/garden.

If you have snails and slugs in your lawn it may attract their natural predators and then you will have two types of pests on your hands. If moles have become a problem than read here to keep them out of your house.

Snails And Slugs Can Eat Plants

One of the most well-known ways that slugs and snails can damage your garden is by eating through your plants. In most cases, at ground-level, they don’t present a big problem. In some cases, they might even eat the debris, helping to break it down, releasing nutrient-rich feces into the soil. This might help plants grow. However, it’s unlikely that they will stay at ground level.

In other cases, the snails or slugs might burrow beneath the soil. This can allow them to eat the root system of grass, trees, or plants. In other cases, they might eat seedlings, before they have a chance to emerge through the soil. As snails and slugs are nocturnal, it can be hard to tell if they are responsible for the damage to your garden. The best way to check if they are the culprit is to look for the distinctive trails that they leave behind.

Due to the fact that some species of snails and slugs burrow beneath the ground it may also cause another unintended result of holes being dug in your yard. If this is happening to you and you want to know how to stop it than check out the article we wrote on finding what is digging holes in your lawn and how to stop it.

Snails and slugs love to climb. This can give them access to plants, which they will then eat. For example, it’s common for them to climb up and eat the bulbs of plants as they are flowering. In most cases, they’ll eat through the leaves, leaving circular holes.

You might also find that some species are attracted to your fruit, just as they start to ripen. In certain states that have moist warm environments that they thrive in their population can get out of control and cause damage to crops. The Florida Department of Agriculture published this Pest Alert to warm growers of the hard to their fruit plants.

Due to their climbing and burrowing ability they often destroy the shrubs in your yard. If you are struggling to keep your shrubs alive or are looking to do some preventative maintenance than check out our article here about why your shrubs are not growing and how to save them.

Snails And Slugs Can Spread Disease

Another big potential concern is that some snail and slug species can contain diseases. It is standard practice for the Department of Agriculture to search for slug infestations during routine inspections of growing facilities. Several states classify these animals as pests as they can be very damaging to plants such as peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots and many others.

Slugs and snails can carry various diseases and parasites. While not always harmful to animals or humans they certainly can be. It is very rare to find cases of people injured from interactions with either of these creatures, but as you can read below, certainly not unheard of.

The most dangerous potential disease that slugs can harbor is rat lungworm(Angiostrongyliasis, Stanford describes it here). Weird name, right? Well, this disease was identified in rats when they would get these worms in their lungs after consuming slugs. There is a bit more than that that goes into it, but you get the gist.

While it is unlikely you will find yourself eating either of these creatures, there are other ways of ingesting this dangerous parasite. You can also get rat lungworm if you don’t wash infected food thoroughly before you consume it. This can be a very serious medical issue, damaging the spinal column and brain tissue. There were 9 reported deaths in Hawaii alone from this in 2019.

Do not worry though, because if you thoroughly clean food and keep your eye out for abnormalities in your garden or produce than you can avoid this all together as well as all of the other possibly side effects of slugs in the garden.

How To Get Rid Of Snails and Slugs

If suspect that you have snails or slugs in your yard, you need to take action. In most cases, their trail will attract other snails and slugs. As a result, you’ll need to address this issue quickly, before they overrun your lawn.

There are a few ways that you can get rid of snails and slugs from your lawn. Just to list a few below:

  • Intentionally place shade and ripe fruit out – leaving a piece of cardboard and some old fruit from your fridge can create a heaven for these guys and will allow you to go hunting early in the morning and dispose of these creatures any way you like.
  • Change the environment – This is my personnel favorite because I am lazy in the long run. While there is the up front work or removing shade and significant debris from your lawn it is worth it as your snail and slug problem will just disappear.
  • Garden Safe Slug and Snail Bait – Not free, but very highly rated. I have not used it personnally, but from all I have read it appears to be a terrific choice.
  • Monterey LG6500 Sluggo Wildlife and Pet Safe Slug Killer – Similar to the above, but price generally varies and is worth a gander to see if it is what you need.

In most cases, snails and slugs are capable of doing a lot of damage to your lawn. Hopefully, you’ll now know the signs to look for if you suspect they are harming your lawn and how to remove them.

Manny Moore

Getting my hands dirty and building a place that me and my small family love is a driving factor for what I do and how I do it. I want to share what I have learned and practiced so that it is just that much easier for everyone to have another tool in their tool belt. Your home should be a place that you love and feel comfortable in and your backyard should be no different.

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