08 Jan Protecting from Snails and Slugs

Photo-21-11-11-3-58-08-PMSnails and slugs have been in the news lately but this recent notoriety has nothing to do with the damage they cause to gardens. Rat Lungworm, a menacing and potentially lethal parasite that as the name suggests typically inhabits rats can also be accidentally ingested by humans – the inadvertent vector for this infection being snails and slugs. Snails and slugs become a carrier of the parasite when they ingest the faeces of infected rodents. This parasite becomes a risk to humans when snail and/or slug contaminated plant materials are ingested. The most likely contact you might make with infected materials would be through home-grown produce. Other incidences of human infection have been caused by the eating infected molluscs’ themselves by either inquisitive toddlers (goo.gl/MVryo) or in one case a dare gone wrong (goo.gl/XUdzn).

It should be noted that human infection of this parasite in Australia is rare. Even people infected generally make a full recovery as we are not the natural host of the parasite and it often struggles to survive in our bodies whilst also being attacked by the body’s immune system.

The last thing I want to do is scare you away from getting out in your garden or growing and enjoying your own fresh produce as this is so beneficial. This article aims to show you simple, effective and most importantly safe methods to deal with these pests to limit your risk of contact.


Snails and slugs lurk in cluttered, protected areas in your garden during the day, coming out generally of an evening or on gloomy or wet days to forage in more open ground. Clearing away potential breeding sites, especially in known infested affected areas can have great effects in reducing population numbers.

Natural Enemies = Gardening Allies

Don’t underestimate the potential snail/slug culling abilities of predators both native and exotic. Encouraging birds, reptiles, amphibians into your garden can also have the effect of keeping populations of slugs and snails in check. This is one reason why the control methods described below are all low-toxic options safe for both pets and native fauna. Backyard poultry can also greatly limit numbers of slugs and snails with no reported transmission dangers for rat lungworm.

Copper Barriers

Copper products such as adhesive tape and copper-based sprays are a great way to prevent snails and slugs from getting to your plants. Copper acts just like an electric fence to both snails and slugs giving them an unpleasant electric charge when they come in contact with it. I have found this to me most effective provided you can provide a clear line of defence. Any foliage or other materials bridging over the copper surface will negate its effectiveness as a control.

Copper-based sprays such as Escar-Go are also a good way to treat an areas such as tree-trunks, letter boxes and other areas where an invisible deterrent is wanted.

Snail & Slug Baits

There are several snail and slug baits on the market but there is only one that I use in my garden. Most bait products are formulated with metaldehyde or methocarb, both nasty poisons that are dangerous to humans, pets and native fauna. For this reason I do not use such products. One snail and slug bait that I do recommend is Multiguard as this is formulated with an iron complex as its active ingredient that poses no health threat for pets and/or humans. These also have the benefit of breaking-down into a vital element for plant growth. As with all snail baits look to spread them lightly around and do not heap them in piles.


Luring and killing snails with traps can be an effective way of reducing overall numbers in your garden. Snail and slug traps are available for purchase and crude versions can be easily construct using something as low-tech as a plastic cup buried into the ground. These traps do not use regular baits/pellets as their lure, instead using beer to attract, intoxicate and drown the pests. The plastic traps are reusable and last for years. Simply dig it into the soil and half fill with beer. You will have to clean it out periodically to clear the casualties and replenish the beer bait.

Other Deterrents

There are other materials that are commonly used to protect plants from snails include crushed eggshells, coffee grounds, wood shavings, and dustings of lime. These can be effective if only guarding a few plants each generally involves regular application around each of the plants to be protected. This can become cumbersome if trying to safeguard many plants and you may not have enough materials to cover large areas unless you are a wood-turning, omelette making barista.

Other Precautions

  • Thoroughly wash all fruit and vegetables that come in from the garden, especially those intended to be eaten raw.
  • Wash hands after being in the garden, especially if handling snails and slugs.
  • Keep an eye on young children who may pick up snails and slugs and put in their mouth.

Let us Know…

What do you use in your garden to defend from snails and slugs? Let us know on the Hortiman facebook page www.facebook.com/hortiman



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Catch up on the latest garden trends, find out what's hot and learn how to care for your garden, plus a bit of fun with Hortiman.

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