Agriculture: Artichoke Pest Management Guidelines

Snails and Slugs

  • Brown garden snail: Helix aspersa
  • Gray garden slug: Agriolimax reticulatus
  • Description of the Pest

    Both snails and slugs are similar in structure and biology, except slugs lack the snail's external spiral shell. Snails and slugs move by gliding along on a muscular "foot." This muscle constantly secretes mucus, which later dries to form the silvery slime trail that signals the presence of these pests. They are most active during the night and early morning when it is damp. In southern California, particularly along the coast, young snails and slugs are active throughout the year.

    Adult brown garden snails lay about 80 spherical, pearly white eggs a month in shallow depressions in the topsoil. They may lay eggs up to six times a year.


    Slugs and snails are of major concern on perennial artichokes especially in winter. The juveniles and adults feed on all parts of the plant. In heavily infested fields, slug feeding on foliage causes shot holes on the leaf lamina. Slugs are particularly injurious to the buds when they scrape off soft tissues from the artichoke bracts. This injury later turns black, and the quality and marketability of the affected produce is greatly reduced. Mollusks do not pose any threat to annual artichokes throughout California.


    Controlling weeds and applying bait are important practices in keeping snail and slug populations under control.

    Cultural Control

    Cutting back artichokes annually helps reduce the slug population. Regions where the artichokes are cut shallower or not cut at all usually sustain higher infestations of both slugs and snails. Keeping weeds under control reduces the plant cover under which the slugs and snails take refuge during the day. Similarly, artichokes planted in heavier soils are more prone to slug and snail damage than in lighter soils. Frequent cultivation and tillage generally keep the infestation under control by killing the slugs and exposing their eggs to natural predators like ground beetles and birds. However, slugs staying very close to the base of the plants or under the crown remain unaffected by this operation, and in due course their populations rebound.

    Management Decisions

    In fields that have yearly problems with these pests, start baiting immediately after the annual cutback of the perennial artichokes in May and June by broadcasting the bait on the ground around the base of the plant. Avoid applying the bait directly to plant foliage or as a heap on the ground near the base of the plant. Continue baiting at 2- to 3-week intervals through November, preferably after irrigating the field. In the past, control with baits has been only marginal, in part because slugs and snails have always been dealt with on a crisis basis. Research indicates that peak egg laying in slugs occurs from late September through early November. Most eggs deposited before late October hatch during fall; those deposited in November hatch from late February through spring. Therefore, slugs are best controlled during October, when they are more mobile on the ground surface in search of food and mate.

    Several new formulations of metaldehyde bait have been introduced in recent years. Granular baits and micropellets have given better control, as the individual particles remain intact in the rain and irrigation water. Also, when the sand-based granular formulations are used during the production phase of artichokes, individual granules can get lodged in the flower buds and become a health hazard to the consumers. Slug control with metaldehyde is dependent on many factors, including weather. Metaldehyde rapidly breaks down in irrigation and rainwater. Adverse weather conditions such as the rain and wind keep the slugs, especially the juveniles, inactive. They either do not consume enough bait or they are able to recover from the poisoning.

    Common name Amount per acre REI‡ PHI‡
    (Example trade name) (hours) (days)
    Not all registered pesticides are listed. The following are ranked with the pesticides having the greatest IPM value listed first—the most effective and least harmful to natural enemies, honey bees, and the environment are at the top of the table. When choosing a pesticide, consider information relating to air and water quality, resistance management, and the pesticide's properties and application timing. Always read the label of the product being used.
      (Ferroxx) 5–20 lb 0 0
      COMMENTS: Use higher rate for heavy infestation. Exempt from tolerance.
      (Deadline Bullets) 10–20 lb 12 0
      (Durham Metaldehyde Granules 7.5) 13.33 lb 12 0
      COMMENTS: Use higher rate for heavy infestation. This bait has minimal impact on other organisms in the field. Avoid contamination of buds by spreading the bait on the ground; tolerance level is low.
      (Leaf Life Sluggo)# 10–44 lb 0 0
      COMMENTS: Can be applied to a field approaching bud harvest without concern of contamination because this product is exempt from tolerance. Apply using standard fertilizer granular spreader. If ground is dry, wet it before applying bait. Reapply as bait is consumed or at least every 2 weeks. Check with organic certifier to determine which products are organically acceptable.
    Restricted entry interval (REI) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing. Preharvest interval (PHI) is the number of days from treatment to harvest. In some cases, the REI exceeds the PHI. The longer of two intervals is the minimum time that must elapse before harvest.
    # Acceptable for use on organically grown produce.
    Text Updated: 01/07
    Treatment Table Updated: 02/20