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Have you recently looked at your compost pile and found a bunch of teeny tiny little snails? Most likely you’ve got awl snails in your compost. These little snails are mostly benign, but as with any pests, you don’t want to have an infestation of anything in your compost. Keep reading to learn more about these tiny snails in your compost and what you can do to keep them from becoming a problem.
What are the tiny snails in my compost?
We’ve had a lot of people asking this exact question. Friends have texted me. Social media followers have DM-ed me. I even had people ask me face to face why we have had so many tiny snails in the compost recently.
Here in Southwest Florida it seems like these teeny tiny little snails appeared overnight and then multiplied quickly. It’s not uncommon for flora and fauna to find their way to our hospitable tropical climate and quickly become a pest.
At first glance, the awl snail seems to have all the makings of an invasive species. After much research into scientific articles- one of my favorite things to do- I’ve found that the current status of awl snails is that they are not considered a threat to agriculture.
While that is a huge relief, it doesn’t really help us with the issue of finding copious amounts of tiny awl snails taking up residence in our compost bins.
Awl Snails in compost: friend or foe?
Snails and slugs are typically a gardener’s foe. Both can do damage to crops and leave you feeling frustrated. Conversely, both snails and slugs are part of the ecosystem of a healthy garden. They help to clean up decaying debris and eat the eggs of other pests.
Awl snails are no different. These tiny little snails live in tropical regions and have not been identified as a significant pest. Like all snails, they do a great job breaking down decaying matter.
But what about in your compost? Are awl snails a good thing in your compost? Or do you want to get rid of these tiny snails in your compost bin?
A few snails here and there aren’t anything to worry about. The fact that snails are great at breaking down decaying matter actually makes them a welcome guest in moderation. However, if you have an infestation of tiny little snails, it is time to take action and troubleshoot some of your compost issues.
How to get rid of snails in compost
Now that we’ve established that the awl snail won’t be the death of your compost, it’s time to dive into how to get rid of them.
The most common reason for a snail infestation is that the compost is too damp.
The first thing you should do to troubleshoot snails in your compost is to work on the moisture in your bin. Snails prefer cool, dark, moist places so if you have had a lot of rain during a cold season, you will probably see an influx in snails.
Work on drying out your bin with a few more dry materials. My favorite way to do this in a pinch is with dry leaves, shredded newspaper, or shredded paper bags.
Add coffee grounds and ground eggshells to your compost
Did you know that caffeine is toxic to snails? A little bit of spent coffee grounds in your compost bin can help deter the snails. Eggshells are too sharp for snails to comfortably move. A combination of coffee grounds and eggshells has done the trick for my compost bins every single time.
Try a beer trap
Snails and slugs are attracted to the fermentation smell of beer and will drown themselves in it! Place a small cup of beer into your compost and let the snails come to you.
Skip the chemicals and salt
Both can do more damage than good to your finished compost. It’s best to try the other methods instead of relying on toxic chemicals.
Benefits of snails in compost
While you certainly don’t want an infestation of any pest in your compost, it’s a good idea to keep the snails in your bin in moderation.
Other than the fact that they are great at breaking down decaying material, it’s a good idea to keep them in your compost because it means they are attracted to your compost bin as opposed to your garden.
We all know that snails on your plants can be a gardeners nightmare. These little suckers will eat holes through your lovely garden overnight. Since snails have everything they need to thrive in a compost bin, let them stay there and do some work for you instead of banishing them to other parts of your garden where they can wreak more havoc.
The only caveat? Make sure to filter them out of your cured and finished compost before adding to your garden.
Do awl snails eat worms?
Snails are carnivores and some larger species will eat your vermicomposting worms. Lucky for us, awl snails do not pose a threat to worms.
These tiny snails will eat the decaying matter of dead earthworms, but so will earthworms! The awl snails are a little too small to be considered a threat to the vermicomposting worms. If you see a decline in your worms after spotting awl snails, it is probably because you have an moisture imbalance that encourages the awl snails to reproduce in the first place.