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More Plant Pests

Not all snails are not plant pests snails, however  ...

Snails are Gastropods and there are over 40,000 species. There are carnivores and herbivores (vegetarians.)

Some herbivores, such as the Florida tree snails are beneficial in gardens (they eat algae, not leaves and bark.)     They are safe for your bonsai trees and may even clean your pots. Look for herbivores in your area.  Others are bad, really bad.

Giant African Snails

Giant African Snail in Florida

In 1966, a Miami, FL, boy smuggled three giant African snails into south Florida upon returning from a trip to Hawaii. His grandmother eventually released the snails into her garden.

Seven years later, more than 18,000 snails had been found along with scores of eggs.  The Florida State eradication program for these plant pests snails took 10 years at a cost of $1 million.”

Source - United States Department of Agriculture/ARS

Now it's back!

Giant African Snails are illegal in the United States. 

If you see a snail that looks like this one, even if it's in a pet store, please report it to your State Department of Agriculture! 

Or call the US Department of Plant Industry at  1-888-397-1517 

Why is it So Bad?

Radula close-up

Snails have something in their mouth called a radula (much like a rough tongue.)

The radula of the giant African snails allows them to devour such things as limestone, stucco, cardboard, paper and bark, in addition to leaves and stems.  

And, can pose a serous health risk to humans.

In addition to the python, this is one of the most dangerous pests to enter Florida in many years.

This is what a snail looks like in action:

Cuban Brown Snails

The Cuban Brown snail is another voracious plant eater. It is prolific in South Florida. The eggs often travel when plants are shipped.

Their rasping mouth parts are strong enough to strip the bark and cambium layer off many plants.  They are definitely plant pests . . . nothing beneficial about them.

Snails by the Pound

One particularly wet summer, our South Florida bonsai nursery was invaded by Cuban brown snails. The nursery had everything a snail could want … healthy plants, moisture and shade.

The recommended snail baits were even more dangerous than we realized. One of our dogs ate a snail (that had eaten the bait) and had a seizure. She ended up in the vets office for two days. She did recover.

Following that incident, we stopped the bait and went out at night (when snails are the busiest) with a flashlight in one hand and an empty coffee can in the other, to “collect” them. (Both hands in rubber gloves.)

One night we gathered three, one-pound cans full!


Rid Your Bonsai of Bad Snails

'The Integrated Pest Management Program at University of California, Davis may have the answers, you're looking for! 

"The first step is to eliminate, as much as possible, all places where they can hide during the day. Boards, stones, debris, weedy areas around tree trunks, leafy branches growing close to the ground, and dense ground covers such as ivy are ideal sheltering spots." 

There are many more suggestions on the site.

My favorite suggestion is traps:
"You can trap snails and slugs beneath boards or flower pots that you position throughout the garden and landscape. Inverted melon rinds also make good traps. Construct wooden traps using 12- by 15-inch boards (or any easy-to-handle size) raised off the ground by 1-inch runners.

"The runners make it easy for the pests to crawl underneath. Scrape off the accumulated plant pests snails and slugs daily and destroy them; crushing is the most common method. Don’t use salt to destroy snails and slugs, since it will increase soil salinity."

Do Not use snail bait.  Yes, it works, but it doesn't know the difference between the helpful snails and the evil doers.  In addition, it can be very dangerous to pets.

Plants from Out of Your Area?

Even if you don't live in Florida, it's possible for these snails to show up in plants received from that area.  Although plants from reputable growers are usually pest free, sometimes it's difficult to see snail eggs.

Florida and California are not the only places with snail problems. Be sure you know the snails where you live.

Where to Go From Here

Leave plant pests, snails and go to other bonsai Plant Pests

Read more about Beneficial Insects and Snails

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There are many pesticides to use – organic and chemical. One good choice is the Safer Brand Insect Killing Soap, Ready to Use Spray