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How Do I Kill Snails?

Powdered ginger can be used as a snail barrier.
Placing copper pennies around plant beds may help repel snails.
Oak bark can dehydrate and irritate snails.
Honey can be used to lure snails into a yeast trap.
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  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 13 March 2014
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There are several methods that can be used to kill snails. They can be picked off by hand or lured away from plants with household items such as food and beer. When allowed to thrive, natural predators such as beetles and caterpillars can help control a snail population. There are also commercial organic poisons which can be used to kill snails.

A direct way to kill snails is to remove them from the garden by hand and then drown them in a container of soapy water. The use of tongs or chopsticks can be an effective method for avoiding slime on the fingers and palms. Pouring white vinegar on the hands and rinsing them with water can also remove snail slime.

One of the most effective natural ways to kill snails is to attract them with food and then dispose of them all at once. A pile of cabbage leaves, citrus fruit, or vegetable rinds on a flat board should lure snails to feed. Placing dried pet food, such as for dogs or cats, under a disposable pie tin with an opening in the side can also attract snails. Snails can be both lured and killed by coffee grounds, which cause them to have a heart attack.

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Yeast traps may be useful for particularly troublesome snail problems. The body of the trap is a jar, sunk into the ground up to the top. Snails can then be lured into the trap with either beer, baking yeast and honey, or sugar mixed together in water.

Creating an inhospitable environment can also kill snails. Regular soil cultivation helps to kill both hibernating snails and their eggs. Gravel, oak bark chips, and cedar all dehydrate and irritate snails. Some natural snail predators to encourage include birds, beetles, and caterpillars. Domestic pets such as dogs and cats may also kill snails for sport.

Organic poison made from iron phosphate can kill snails without harming humans and pets. As it is not water soluble, it remains effective in wet conditions, where snails may be most prevalent. It is applied via pellets, which are spread around the soil.

Once all snails have been removed, several steps can be taken to avoid their return. Removing snail habitat by keep the garden clear of any decaying matter makes it more difficult for them to thrive. Installing copper stripping or laying pennies around beds and plants can repel snails. Dryer lint, wood ashes, or lines of powdered ginger can also be effective snail barriers.

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Discuss this Article

candyquilt
Post 6

I think it's better to target snail eggs rather than the adults. Black beetles are known for eating snail eggs. It's also a good idea to talk to neighbors because snails usually move from garden to garden at night.

ddljohn
Post 5

My dad has the worst method of getting rid of snails in his garden. He crushes them! He says it works, but it's definitely not something I can do. I think snails have benefits for the soil and plants and so I don't want to eliminate them altogether.

A more natural way to keep the snail population under control is to leave seeds for birds in the garden. Birds eat snails and so do frogs, but it's hard to get frogs unless there is a pond nearby.

I feed birds and when the snails go crazy during spring and summer, I leave some sliced apples around the garden so that they will eat those instead of my plants. It seems to be working fine.

ysmina
Post 4

@clintflint-- That's a good idea. I might do that as well, although I'm not sure how I'm going to pick them up. I don't want to get slime on my hands, so maybe I will use gloves. Is it easy to pick up snails? Don't they stick to the ground?

lluviaporos
Post 3

@clintflint - I have to confess that I think snails are quite cute. And they are also fascinating, when you think about how they carry their home on their back like that. I would find it difficult to kill a snail as a pest. It seems a lot worse to kill a snail than to kill, say, silverfish that are infesting the cupboard.

On the other hand, I have no objection to eating snails, and I've had escargot quite a few times. I think if I was raising snails for food I might be able to slaughter them when necessary.

So, I just need to infest my garden with food snails and my problem will be solved.

For now, I just do the same as your grandmother. I wait until dusk and them go out with a bowl and collect all the snails I find, then dump them as far away from my garden as possible. Not very efficient, maybe, but it works for me.

clintflint
Post 2

@bythewell - My grandmother used to swear by picking them by hand. She always said that no matter how tempting the trap, one or two would go straight to her cabbages and it was better to make sure.

She never wanted to kill them though, for some reason. She always let them go in the local park. And this was a woman who had no compunctions about killing any other insect or creepy crawly. She would kill mosquitoes, silverfish, centipedes and all with glee, but never wanted to hurt snails.

bythewell
Post 1

The best snail traps we've ever used were yogurt pots that had a bit of beer in them. You generally make a hole in the side and bury the pot so that the hole is level with the ground, then fill the bottom of the pot with beer.

The snails and slugs will go through the hole and drown in the beer. In fact the main problem is how quickly the pots will fill up. We've also used old soda bottles, but they might be too big for a small garden.

It's better to do it this way, with an open hole, than to just bury the whole pot so that only the rim is above ground, as they get buried much more easily that way and then can be hard to find when you want to refill them. I think it also makes it more difficult for the snail to get out again.

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