Tips from the Help Desk…
Residential Horticulture Agent and
Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator
Those pesky snails
Terrestrial snails are one of those garden pests you don’t often see or pay much attention to. Caterpillars and grasshoppers usually get blamed for the damage they do. Those that feed on live plants are sneaky and often come out at night. If you come out early enough in the morning, you may catch them before they return to the ground to hide in leaf litter or see the trails that they leave behind. Once upon a time we only had a few species of native snails which were mostly beneficial. Not until snails invaded from other countries did they start to rear their odd-looking heads.
Friend, not foe
There is a native snail that doesn’t eat your plants or cause any environmental issues. Instead, it is a predator that eats other snails. The Rosy Wolf Snail, Euglandina rosea, is a native of the southeastern United States. It has an elongated pinkish shell and is quite distinctive when compared to other snails. It had been moved to different parts of the world as biological control of invasive snails, but its use has been discouraged for this purpose because of issues it caused their native snails. Not all snails feed on live plants and many native species can be beneficial. So when you come across snails identify them before treating them harshly.
Other worrisome snails
There is a lot of talk of the African Giant Land Snail which has made its way to Florida, but sightings of these are rare for now. They are giant because they can grow up to eight inches! These escaped pets may someday become more common.
A smaller non-native snail, Bulimulus sporadicus, loves to climb and has drawn some local attention in Florida’s Heartland. They are small snails that grow to about an inch in length and are often found in large numbers. Feeding mostly on dead plant debris, they seem to love to climb up the sides of houses or other structures for no apparent reason. Often, they crawl up the sides of buildings in large numbers. They are tan with brown stripes that run along their shells. There is no control except to pick them off of your home. Luckily they don’t cause issues by eating your live plants.
Click here to read this informative University of Florida, Entomology and Nematology department article to learn more about snails in Florida.
To help identify snails in your garden, check this fact sheet out or bring them to the UF/IFAS Highlands County Extension office Help Desk Monday through Friday from 9:30 amto 3:30 pm. The office is at 4509 George Blvd., Sebring
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