Slugs and Snails in the Winter Landscape

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One day in late February I was busy with some flower garden clean up when I noticed multiple clear, round eggs nestled among the roots of a dead Formosa lily stalk. Going by a photo I submitted, the NC Plant Disease and Insect Clinic identified the eggs as belonging to slugs or snails (Gastropods, in the Class gastropoda). Slugs and snails do get started early in Eastern NC!

According to NC State Extension entomologist Steven Frank, if you see ragged holes in leaves with no pest in sight, you may have slugs. These pests are abundant in moist areas in the landscape, including near leaky water spigots and irrigation heads. Shade, heavy mulch and plant debris, planting pots, or pieces of wood provide shelter and suitable habitat, so any tidying up you can accomplish will be helpful in reducing the population. Frank also suggests that regular hand removal of the snails or slugs can make a significant difference in numbers.

Pesticide baits are available, the most familiar containing the active ingredients metaldehyde or methiocarb. These are carbamates and are toxic on contact or ingestion. And as Frank notes, these products are also toxic to pets and children. Frank suggests the bait material be inconspicuous, and sprinkled over the area rather than arranged in piles that pets and children might notice. Iron phosphate (Sluggo) is another option, with good efficacy against snails and slugs but less mammalian toxicity.

Image of slug eggs

Slug/snail eggs on February 23, among the roots of a dead stalk of Formosa lily.
Photo by Tom Glasgow/NCSU.

Close-up image of slug eggs

Close up taken on February 25. Photo by Ashley Brooks/NCSU.