Snails climbing trees, making lawns crunch as North Country population explodes
Saturday, August 16, 2014 - 8:48 am

By JIMMY LAWTON

CANTON -- Snail populations in the North Country appear to have exploded, likely due to an extremely wet year.

St. Lawrence County Cornell Cooperative Extension Horticulturist Paul Hetzler said he received three calls in one day regarding the increased snail and slug numbers.

Hetzler said one woman in the Canton area reported that her yard was so full of snails, it “crunches” when she walks on it.

Hetzler said snails had also been reported on mature trees, another sign their numbers are above normal.

“They don’t usually climb. When the population is up so high, they are competing for food and start eating things they wouldn’t normally eat.”

Hetzler said the snails and slugs require moisture to breed and last year they had a perfect opportunity to do just that.

“I think the wet year in 2013 really ramped up there populations,” he said.

For people experiencing the increased snail presence and are hoping to protect there plants from feeding frenzies, there are some tools that can deter the bugs.

Hetzler said diatomaceous earth can be used to create a barrier that slugs and snails are unlikely to cross.

The product is all natural and non-toxic.

“It basically cuts them as they try to cross making it very uncomfortable,” he said.

Hetzler said another option for controlling snails is iron phosphate. This product actually kills the slugs and snails.

To prevent snail and slug breeding, Hetzler said to keep lumber, mulch and other products off of the grass.

“They will breed anywhere where it dark and damp,” he said.

While slugs and snails seem harmless, Hetzler said they can damage vegetation and serve as an alternate host for a parasite that is known to kill sheep.