The brown garden snail
Okay, this time I’m REALLY taking artistic license. Snails are not remotely related to insects. These guys are actually mollusks and are cousins to clams and shrimp. In fact, it was a major culinary mistake that introduced the brown garden snails to California many years ago when they were imported and introduced to grape vines in the hopes of providing tasty escargot dishes. Unfortunately, these snails turned out to have a greater affinity for our land than we did for their flavor. (They didn’t pass the taste test.) Instead, they spread into the waterways and reproduced at a prodigious rate becoming one of California’s biggest pests. They tend to love iceplant and oleander where they shade themselves from our hot desert sun. There aren’t many plants the brown garden snail won’t chomp into and these pests can decimate an entire planting of seedlings overnight.
Try collecting them under boards at night, or allowing them to drown themselves in shallow saucers of stale beer. (This latter technique may not work if you have a pet dog like I do who adores beer and slurps it up before the snails and slugs can find it.) There are also several products on the market now such as “Sluggo” which is safe to use around children, pets and wildlife. Decollate snails have been approved in this area as a natural predator. These snails have narrow spiraling shells and feed on the eggs and tiny young of the common garden snail. Look for them in garden shops in the spring and place them around your garden. It may take years before they will have a sizeable impact on a large population of snails, but you won’t have to use any other means of combat. (Do not use slug and snail bait with Decollate snails!)]
Natural enemies abound. Birds, especially Road Runners in the desert areas love to eat brown garden snails. Even coyotes have been known to include snails in their diets. Though they may be pests themselves, raccoons and opossums also will occasionally dine on snails as well. Even if you don’t have children or pets, using poisonous bait for the brown garden snail can hurt wildlife either by direct ingestion, or indirectly, by eating a poisoned bird. So I personally advise using any solution other than poison if at all possible.
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