You know how the saying goes: out of sight, out of mind. But even if you can’t see snails during the day, they will certainly be on your mind when you see the damage they can do to your garden! How can something so slow come and go so quickly?
Snails come out at night to avoid the drying effects of the sun. During the day, they hide underneath the edges of the lawn, and under leaves, rocks, plants, and yard decorations. Snails can also hide in dark, damp places such as the inside of water meters, sprinkler boxes, and underneath porch steps.
Whether you choose to catch them, eliminate their hiding places, or create snail-resistant barriers, read on to learn how to quickly win your battle with the unofficial mascot for slow-moving individuals everywhere!
How Snails Got To Your Yard In The First Place
Snails are such a widespread pest that it can be easy to forget that they had to come from somewhere. Most snails in the United States are not native to the continent.
According to the University of California, the most common garden snail in California was introduced to the United States in the 1850s when it was imported from France for culinary purposes.
(You might think that snail meat sounds like a nauseating meal, but snail farming is a significant industry in some parts of the world. Snail is high in protein and iron!)
Don’t blame traditional French cuisine for the holes in your strawberry leaves, though! Snails can also spread throughout the world without human intervention. Scientists based out of Japan hypothesize that birds can spread snail eggs through their droppings— similar to how they might spread fruit seeds. Charming, right?
Why Do Snails Come Out At Night?
Ever resilient, snails can survive a cold winter by hibernating under the topsoil. They can even live in deserts by creating a mucus barrier at the entrance of their shell between rainstorms. But an unprotected sunny day would mean.. certain demise?
According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, snails only come out at night (or on cloudy days) because the sun can quickly dry their bodies out. In a self-preserving urge to not become a dried-out husk of their former selves, snails stick to the shadows.
Most Common Places Where Snails Come From At Night
You will commonly find snails underneath:
- the edges of the lawn
- dead leaves and plant matter
- bark and other mulch
- foliage on living plants
- tools and toys that did not get put away
- garden decorations
- rocks and stones
Some other snail hotspots include:
- in between pieces of rough tree bark (if in a cool, shady area)
- inside water meters
- inside sprinkler boxes
- along ponds, ditches, and water featuresw
- around compost piles
To summarize this list, think to yourself:
- Is it possible for a boneless land mollusk to shimmy its way underneath or inside this object?
- Would it be damp there?
If you can answer YES to both of these questions, congratulations! You have successfully discovered a snail hiding spot.
Let’s address each of these unique hiding places and how we can prevent snails from using them as shelter!
Snails Come From Edges of the Lawn
You may be tempted to reach into your kitchen cupboard and grab the table salt. Don’t. This will increase the soil salinity in your garden, which can cause an entirely different problem.
In addition, salt is only effective when it is in direct contact with a snail’s body. It does not act as a repellent. For salt to effectively work, you would need to create an uninterrupted barrier around your yard and garden.
While effective for keeping fairies and other tricksters away (depending on what folklore you prescribe to), a salt barrier is generally seen as a waste of salt. Other methods are simply more effective against snails than salt.
Instead of using a chemical or poison, try trimming the edges of your lawn. Shorter edges remove the deep grass that snails use to hide. Hire a professional landscaper or lawn care company if you’re unsure how to do it.
Dead Leaves and Plant Matter are Attracting Snails
Dead leaves are a colorful symbol of autumn, but you can find them in your yard at any point of the year. (And not just from trees, either!) Plants all have different cycles and seasons, and you might have wilting spring flowers before you even experience true summer weather.
This hiding spot is simple to eliminate, and it will make your yard and garden look much nicer, too! Clean up dead plants and leaves as they die back.
Snails Love Bark and Other Mulch
Many people use shredded bark in their landscaping to create a manicured appearance. Others use straw to keep the soil wet underneath. Whatever method you use, just keep in mind that snails love to hide in mulch.
A solution to this would be to strategically choose the spots you mulch. If snails have been wreaking havoc on your tomato plants, for instance, remove all mulch from the ground surrounding that part of your garden. Bare dirt looks much better than bite marks in your tomatoes!
Snails Hide Under Foliage on Living Plants
Snails will shamelessly hide underneath the leaves of the very plants they feast upon. To keep snails away, you must use a snail repellent. You can use copper to repel snails from your garden!
It is thought that copper reacts with snail slime in a way that sends an electric shock sensation through their bodies. While not necessarily painful, snails stay away due to how unpleasant it feels!
(This is similar to when humans with metal dental fillings chew on tin foil. Please don’t try that if you have not experienced the sensation already.)
Once an area is snail free, use copper foil to create a barrier around it. (If snails are in the area, the copper will trap them inside.)
Copper can be fairly expensive if you purchase it at the hardware store. It can also be hard to find in foil form. But you can buy Copper Foil Tape at relatively inexpensive prices online!
Due to the fact that snails are attracted to plants, having a garden will most likely be very tempting to them. There are a few specific reasons why snails may be coming into your garden (which you can view by clicking.)
One perk of this method is that copper does not need to be replaced unless it is damaged. If you are feeling particularly crafty, it will also look incredibly nice when you’re done!
Snails Like Leftover Tools and Toys
Maybe you were interrupted mid-activity and left your tools out for “just a moment”. I’ll be right back, you think to yourself. But pick it up before the sun goes down. Even objects placed outside for one night can serve as a snail shelter.
Train yourself (and family members) to put things away when you’re not using them. As a bonus, this can protect you against theft!
Garden Decorations Are A Snail’s Dream
Garden decorations can also serve as shelter for snails, but unlike toys and tools, you’re not going to put these in a shed every night. How can you protect your property? Could you capture them somehow?
Snails are attracted to yeast, so it makes sense that one could use this to lure them to a trap. Many gardeners simply swear by yeast as a method of snail bait!
More accurately referred to as a yeast trap, placing the yeast where it is accessible to snails will lure them to a central location where you can remove them. You can use yeast mixed with sugar water to attract them!
Although you could leave a yeast and sugar water in your garden, it is important to keep non-snail visitors out of the yeast trap. A useful tool for this would be something like this Snail Trap Garden Decoration.
I love that it’s decorative— it looks like a fun garden statue rather than a “trap”. The snail shape is a fun touch, although if you’re so exhausted by snails that the thought of seeing even ONE MORE leaves you weary, you can purchase other shapes too!
Lastly, snails don’t care if the yeast has been out a while. You will only need to replace it as the liquid evaporates. You also need to maintain levels deep enough that the snails will not be able to get out of the trap once they crawl in.
Snails hide under Rocks and Stones
Every yard has rocks, though the number varies depending on your geographic location and personal preference. While it is impossible (and aesthetically undesirable) to remove all rocks, you will want to remove lighter, loose rocks if you have a snail problem.
- Pack down loose gravel
- Make sure paving stones lay neatly against one another without gaps
- Keep rock piles dry
- Reconsider placing stepping stones in the garden if you have a snail problem
You may find success in combining some of the strategies mentioned above, including yeast traps and copper foil.
Snails Like Rough Tree Bark
If you have trees with rough bark on your property, snails can hide under the wood. But short of cutting down the tree, what are you to do?
Put down the ax— you don’t need to chop down your trees. You don’t even need any tools. Hand removal is the best strategy to remove snails from tree bark.
Snails move (at their fastest) at a rate of 2 feet per hour. Even though their species may be found all over the globe, the range of an individual snail is quite small. A human will be able to cover the distance in a matter of steps.
If you can find the silvery path of a snail track, it could be worth following it to a popular snail hiding place and removing it from your garden by hand.
Once you catch the snails, dispose of them. Ideally, as time passes, you will find fewer and fewer snails. But this might just become one of your routine garden tasks.
Snails Hide In Water Meters
If your household water is provided by a utility service with your city or municipality, somewhere on your property is a water meter. This measures how much water you use. The meter is usually underground, covered by a metal lid.
Make sure the lid is securely fastened. Snails can get into small spaces, but they are limited to holes the size of their shell. Whether it uses bolts or screws, there will be some type of fastener on the meter cover.
Do not hesitate to contact your utility provider if you need the metal cover tightened. Remember that penalties and fines often apply if the meter is tampered with or damaged.
Snails Are Attracted To Sprinkler Boxes
If your property has automatic sprinklers, you will have one or more underground control boxes in the yard. You will recognize these from the green rectangle lids in the grass.
Make sure these are tightly closed. Usually, no tools are needed, a few good stomps will do.
If you ever remove the cover and find any snails inside, simply hand remove them.
If you are renting, please consult your landlord before touching the sprinkler system.
Ponds, Ditches, and Water Features Attract Snails
Whether it’s a bird bath, manmade pond, or even a natural stream, water features are a beautiful way to enhance your property. It’s also a surefire way to attract snails to your property.
Because each water feature is different, you will need to try a different solution for each one. A combination of yeast traps, copper foil, trimming long grass, and hand removal will take care of the problem.
Snails Like Compost Piles
Composting is an incredible way to help the Earth. By creating “green manure”, you can recycle kitchen scraps and help your garden grow stronger!
If possible, contain your compost pile in a box or container. This helps the compost pile reach the proper temperature as well as keep snails out.
If you do not have a wall, remain committed to caring for your compost pile. Remove snails as you find them.
Why Are Snails Coming Into My House Anyways?
We need to address that sometimes snails are an indoor problem. Fortunately, when people speak of snails in the home, they are usually referring to areas such as garages and attached sheds.
However, the principles of removing snails are the same regardless of the area of the house.
Please contact a licensed pest control professional if snails are entering the living areas of your home, such as (but not limited to) the kitchen, bedroom, or bathroom.
If snails are entering your house, it is probably due to a combination of the following:
- You have unsealed entrances, such as an opening under the door or a hole in the wall.
- It is damp and dark.
The most effective strategy is to make the area inhospitable to snails. Remove any standing water and properly seal all entrances. (These two steps will help reduce other pests as well.
In addition, there are a few other things that you can try to use as snail repellent. For example, there are a few well-known scents that snails hate!
Apply the methods above to deal with both indoor and outdoor snails!
If you find evidence of snails in your yard, take advantage of the sunny, snail-free hours of the day to prepare for when they come out of hiding at night.
Once you know where snails are hiding, you will be prepared to create a snail-free paradise!
Cobbinah, J. R., Vink , A., & Onwuka Agrodok, B. (2008). Snail farming: Production, processing, and marketing. Retrieved June 29, 2022, from India Environment Portal: News, reports, documents, blogs, data, analysis on Environment & Development: India, South Asia.
Snail: From present perspective to the history of Assam | India Environment Portal | News, reports, documents, blogs, data, analysis on environment & development | India, South Asia. (2009, January 7). Retrieved June 29, 2022, from http://admin.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/feature-article/snail-present-perspective-history-assam
Possible dispersal of land snails by birds – Researchgate. Retrieved June 29, 2022, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232675696_Possible_dispersal_of_land_snails_by_birds
Schmidt-Nielsen, K., Taylor, C. R., &; Shkolnik, A. (1971, October 1). Desert Snails: Problems of heat, water and food. The Company of Biologists. Retrieved June 29, 2022, from https://journals.biologists.com/jeb/article/55/2/385/21663/Desert-Snails-Problems-of-Heat-Water-and-Food
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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