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Combatting Critters: How to do Battle with Snails, Slugs and Caterpillars

By Karen Wilkinson
Published: December 1, 2016 | Last updated: April 23, 2021
Key Takeaways

Even though they’re slow, snails, slugs and caterpillars are sneaky little pests that can leave massive destruction in their wake. So, don your armor and your weapons, and prepare to battle the bugs!

Pests, diseases and fungi are more than mere annoyances—they’re grave threats to growers’ livelihoods and, therefore, are the enemy. Along with the many factors that go into growing a high-quality, productive crop, one must constantly keep tabs on potential infestations and the onset of disease.

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Snails, slugs and caterpillars are slow-moving, yet sneaky creatures that—if left to their own devices—will devour leaves, vegetation and roots. So, it’s best to stop them in their tracks, which can be achieved through cultural practices, predators and sprays.

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Getting rid of Snails and slugs in the garden

These slimy, slow, soft-bodied blobs do most of their feeding at night and leave behind evidence in the form of silvery trails, or snail trails. Always on a hunt for food, snails and slugs nibble holes in leaves and eat nearly any vegetation, including roots, and are especially fond of new growth.

Fortunately, they’re not the brightest of creatures and deterring them from your garden doesn’t take too much grief. One of the simplest methods is blocking their paths by creating an impenetrable perimeter around the garden or individual plants. Snails and slugs thrive in warm, damp environments, so it’s best to create a dry perimeter that impedes their progress using beach sand (the saltier, the better) or lime or diatomaceous earth. Other eradication approaches include sprays and the predatory decollate snail.

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Caterpillars

While some caterpillars eventually grow into beautiful butterflies, their in-between stage can be a nuisance. Most often green (though they also come in other colors), caterpillars have sets of feet along the length of their bodies and love munching upon leaves and foliage, potentially killing plants.

It’s best to remove them by hand, by using predatory bugs like trichogamma wasps (A.K.A stingless wasps) and podisus maculiventris (A.K.A soldier bugs) and by using homemade sprays containing bacillus thuringiensis bacteria, pyrethrum and rotenone, along with garlic and hot pepper.

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Another preventative measure is being aware of any large trees or foliage above your plants. They serve as havens for these and other creatures, which can easily drop onto your garden and become problematic.

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Written by Karen Wilkinson

Profile Picture of Karen Wilkinson
Karen Wilkinson is a budding gardener with previous experience working in the hydroponics industry. Her background includes daily reporting, technical writing, marketing and promotions. After spending years living along California’s northern coast, she made her way to Sacramento where she currently lives and breathes the yoga lifestyle.

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