Saturday, February 09, 2013

Pest of the month: snails and slugs

Some of the most annoying pests in my garden are snails and slugs. Sure enough they damage bonsai (seedlings, young shoots), but the most disappointing incidents relate to accent plants. Before an orchid is about to bloom, they would chew through the base of the inflorescence stalk. They would eat an entire pebble plant (Lithops sp.), and they would cause severe damage to my carnivorous plants (Sarracenia and Venus Flytrap). The culprits are two species the Common Garden Snail (Helix aspersa, image above left) and the Leopard Slug (Limax maximus, image above right). Both species were introduced to Australia from Europe. An interesting thing about the Leopard Slug is that a stretched body of a fully grown individual can be upto 20 cm long. Control of snails and slugs is very easy – snail pellets sold in most garden centers and hardware stores.
The Garden Snail is one of the edible species. It is ironic that superficially it is very similar to the endangered Cumberland Plain Land Snail (Meridolum corneovirens, image below right). The only place on this planet where you can find the Cumberland Plain Land Snail is western Sydney. Ironic again, you may find this rare snail under a pile of rubbish in your backyard (if you live in western Sydney). If you do, don’t worry - Cumberland Plain Land Snail doesn’t feed on living plants. To tell the pair apart see images below. The diameter of adult Garden Snail shell is 2.5 – 4 cm, while the diameter of adult Cumberland Plain Snail shell is 1.5 – 3 cm. The Garden Snail shell has a blotchier pattern and has fewer turns than Cumberland Plain Snail’s shell.

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