Snails are everywhere. They can be found in trees, in the garden, at the beach, and, as reported on the local news, they are even found clogging irrigation pipes in Cape Coral.
Snails are classified as mollusks, meaning they are soft bodied animals related to clams, scallops, squid and octopus. The snail’s family tree branches away from the others into a family called gastropods. Translated loosely gastropod means “stomach-foot”, and these animals’ primary mode of locomotion similarly serves as their means of consumption.
Snails can be further broken down by habitat. We have marine snails, aquatic (freshwater) snails and terrestrial snails, which are all similar in that they have a single external shell, one or two pair of antennae (sensory organs), and stalked eyes.
Among Florida’s terrestrial snails, the garden varieties are generally regarded as pests. Some are native while others have been imported, either intentionally through the pet trade and as a food source, or accidentally in plant shipments. Most terrestrial snails are herbivores.
Sliding along on its mucus-laden stomach-foot, the Cuban brown snail (Zachrysia provisoria) is one of the most common garden pests in Florida and is readily found in leaf litter. Intentionally introduced in Florida, it is more than an inch in diameter with deeply ribbed whorls. It decimates ornamental plants such as lilies, hibiscus and bromeliads, causing extensive damage in large numbers.
Another type of terrestrial snail is the rosy wolf snail (Euglandina rosea). This gastropod is a predatory snail, native in Florida and the southeast but introduced to other states as a biological control agent of agricultural threats such as the giant African snail. Unfortunately its indiscriminate palate has resulted in the extinction of several native land snail species in Hawaii. For more information on this species, read this report.
Tree snails can also be found in Florida as they thrive in humid climates. The master tree snail (Drymaeus dominicus) is common on citrus and various species of native trees, but is not considered a pest. Several other species of tree snails are found in Florida, including the Liguus, listed as a Threatened species in Florida. Click here to read about Florida tree snails.
Snails can be fun to watch, unless they are eating your garden. Before grabbing the pesticide, consider manually removing, or, try this simple trick: place a shallow bowl of beer on the ground adjacent to the plants being munched on. Snails will be attracted to the beer and can actually overdose on alcohol.