Garden Pests and Garden Pals: Part 4 - Slugs, Snails and Praying Mantises

As the temperature drops, the insect activity in your garden will decline as well, but you may find a few lingering critters if you look closely!

The beautiful but ever hungry Leopard Slug!

The beautiful but ever hungry Leopard Slug!

This Fall, we’ve noticed a resurgence of slugs and snails in our gardens. These cute and slimy critters love to munch on our leafy greens. 

There are a number of “folk” remedies for garden slugs including sprinkling coffee grounds, eggshells, or sand around your plants, but we’re cautious about what we add to our soils (let us know if you’ve given any of those a try!). It is true that slugs love beer and will happily jump into bowls of beer that they can’t escape, but keeping the bowl full and tidy day after day is sometimes more maintenance than it’s worth! 

As with caterpillars, we think the very best thing to do with slugs and snails is to pick them off by hand and encourage beneficial species (including birds, toads, and praying mantids) to live in your garden and eat these critters as a juicy snack!

Carolina Mantis picture courtesy of  extension.umd.edu

Carolina Mantis picture courtesy of extension.umd.edu

You may also see our friend, the praying mantis. Praying Mantises are elongated bugs highly adapted for hunting. They are recognizable by their long torso, triangular head, and name-sake folded front legs. 

While mantis egg sacs are sold in many nurseries and garden catalogues, Mantises are not always the most effective pest-control. Their aggressive nature can make them territorial keeping mantis populations from getting too concentrated. Their diets, though carnivorous, are very general; mantises will eat beneficial insects as well as pests and sometimes members of their own species! 

Still, it’s never a bad thing to see a Praying Mantis and to encourage their presence in your garden. They will catch the hard to catch pests with their advanced hunting techniques and serve as a telltale indicator of a healthy ecosystem. At this point in the season some species can get up to 5 inches long! They will lay eggs in leaf litter which will over-winter and hatch come Spring.