This article has been checked for horticultural accuracy by Oliver Parsons.
What do snail and slug eggs look like?
Snail and slug eggs look like white or off-white spheres that measure around 3mm across. The eggs have a jelly-like texture. Slugs and snails are molluscs that perform useful roles in the garden. They are also known as detritivores as they break down organic garden detritus which helps recycle nutrients back into soil and compost, ultimately feeding plants. Slugs and snails are also food for birds, hedgehogs, amphibians, and other creatures. However, in the garden, slugs and snails are often regarded as pests because some species eat plants, particularly seedlings, soft growth of vegetables such as lettuce and beans, and some perennials – hostas are a great favourite. Knowing how to identify their eggs and what to do when you come across them is a practical way to limit their numbers.
How to identify snail and slug eggs
Snail and slug eggs in soil are usually laid in clusters. As well as checking their size and texture, compress them between finger and thumb to find out if they ‘squash’ (wear gloves if you prefer, or wash hands afterwards). This differentiates eggs from other, similar spheres that can be found in soil, particularly controlled release fertiliser granules, which are close in size but emit liquid when squashed and are more orange/yellow in colour, or perlite, which looks like polystyrene beads.
Where do slugs and snails lay their eggs?
Slug and snail eggs are laid year-round, generally in damp, dark places such as under trays, boxes, pots, and compost bags, as well as in soil and in compost heaps or bins. Eggs that are laid in soil or compost heaps may be more widely scattered as they are usually found when cultivating soil or emptying out compost. Eggs are laid in protected places to survive winter, and hatch as temperatures rise in spring. Depending on the species and the environment, slugs and snails may be active year-round. Even when air temperatures are low, they can take advantage of warm, sheltered microclimates, especially under cover in garden structures.
Should I get rid of slug eggs and snail eggs?
Getting rid of slug and snail eggs does reduce population numbers, although it’s not possible to completely eradicate them from a garden. Focus slug and snail control efforts on indoor growing environments such as a greenhouse, cold frame, or polythene tunnel, where susceptible young seedlings are grown. Keeping clutter to a minimum helps as there are fewer places for slugs and snails to lay their eggs, so it’s best to store pots, bags of compost and other garden sundries, in another place.
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How to get rid of slug eggs and snail eggs
Birds love to eat slug and snail eggs, so all you need to do is scatter them on the ground or, even better, on a bird table. There’s no need to squash the eggs as birds will simply gobble them up whole.