Decollate Garden Snails

Our yards would have a much easier time were it not for snails. Snails feed on and destroy a variety of plant life. These gastropods are hermaphrodites, having both sperm and eggs. Snails can produce eggs up to twice a month, and up to one hundred eggs at a time. In other words, snails are prolific. The introduction of a predator may be a solution to controlling the problem naturally, but it can introduce another set of problems.

Decollate Snails
Decollate snails have been used to control brown snails in some California citrus groves for years. Decollates are omnivorous, meaning that they will eat both plants and animals. In this case, they'll eat snail eggs, small to medium sized snails and leaf matter.

Decollates are easy to distinguish from brown snails. Decollate snails have brown, conical shells that can be as much as 2" long. Brown snails have round shells.

Like other land snails, decollate snails are hermaphrodites. They can start producing eggs after they reach about 10 months of age and can produce roughly 200 eggs per year. Life span for decollate snails is roughly two years, as opposed to brown snails' six-year life span.

Decollates will go dormant under certain conditions, such as when temperatures are high with low humidity. Although decollate snails cannot survive long periods of freezing weather, they will dig down into the soil during cold weather for protection.

Like their prey, decollate snails are most active after rains and during the night. They track garden snails by following the garden snails' slime.

Introducing Decollate Snails
Before introducing decollate snails, do not use snail poisons for at least 30 days. In addition, keep in mind that if you go after brown snails with poisons after your decollates are established, you will kill both kinds of snails.

When you open your package of decollate snails, you will probably find them dormant. To wake them up, put them in a bucket and pour cool water over them for about three minutes. Then place them in a moist area with shade where they are most likely to encounter garden snails or garden snail eggs. This is important, as decollate snails do not crawl too far away from their points of origin.

As part of getting your decollate snails established, you may have to feed them with smashed up snails or leaf mulch.

How many decollate snails should be placed in a given area? It depends on the amount of watering that is done in that area, the types of plants in the area and how well established the area is. In general, areas that are more frequently watered will require more decollates. One hundred decollate snails can service between 100 to 400 square feet.

Advantages of Using Decollate Snails
The main advantage of using decollate snails is that you will not have to use poisons that are dangerous to pets and children. In addition, your overall costs should go down over time. Decollate snails reproduce, so you may not have to introduce more snails to increase their population. You will also not have to spend as much money on snail baits or poison.

Disadvantages of Using Decollate Snails

It can take many years, sometimes up to 10 years, for decollate snails to control your brown snail population.

Decollate snails cannot kill large snails, although they might try. Since it is the mature snails that are laying eggs, you will still have to dispose of large brown snails to completely interrupt the brown snails' growing cycles.

Decollate snails cannot climb. If your trees are infested with brown snails, decollate snails will not be able to help you solve the problem.

Decollate snails will eat young plants, particularly if there are not enough food sources available to them.

Decollate snails are illegal in some parts of the United States because they attack snails that are on the endangered species list.

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