Developing a Strategy to Control Invasive Snails Using Chemicals and Visual Cues

Jim Crocker
21st May, 2024

Developing a Strategy to Control Invasive Snails Using Chemicals and Visual Cues

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study by the CSIRO European Laboratory in Australia investigates a new "push-pull" strategy to manage invasive Mediterranean snails
  • Red artificial estivation supports were found to be the most attractive to the snails, effectively luring them away from crops
  • Garlic extracts were identified as the most effective deterrent, offering a natural and environmentally friendly way to protect crops from snails
Invasive Mediterranean snails, specifically Theba pisana, Cernuella virgata, Cochlicella acuta, and Cochlicella barbara, pose a significant threat to the grain industry in Australia, costing an estimated $170 million annually. These snails' estivation behavior, where they climb on cereal and legume stalks to rest during the summer, coincides with the harvest season, leading to grain contamination in crops such as wheat, barley, and canola. A recent study conducted by the CSIRO European Laboratory investigates a novel "push-pull" strategy to manage these invasive snail populations effectively[1]. The push-pull strategy aims to divert snails from cultivated fields by combining repellent and attractive stimuli. The "push" component involves using a chemical deterrent to repel snails from the fields, while the "pull" component involves providing attractive estivation supports to lure the snails away. This dual approach is the first of its kind to leverage both visual and chemical stimuli to influence pest behavior. In the study, artificial estivation supports of various colors were tested under laboratory and field conditions to determine their attractiveness to the snails. The results showed that red supports were the most attractive for all four snail species. This finding aligns with earlier research that highlighted the importance of vertical supports in snail estivation behavior, suggesting that snails prefer wider and taller supports for resting[2]. By using red supports, the researchers could effectively lure the snails away from the crops. For the "push" component, different substances were tested as potential snail deterrents, including garlic, coffee, coffee grounds, and copper. Garlic extracts emerged as the most potent deterrent, effectively protecting estivation supports and food sources from snails under laboratory conditions. This finding is significant because it offers a natural and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional molluscicides, which often have serious non-target effects and can be ineffective under certain conditions[3]. The study's results were consistent across all four snail species, demonstrating the potential of this push-pull strategy in managing invasive snail populations in Australia. The combination of attractive red estivation supports and garlic-based deterrents offers a promising solution to the grain contamination issues caused by these pests. Previous studies have explored various biocontrol methods for managing snail populations. For instance, a survey for nematodes with potential for biocontrol of these snails identified the rhabditid isolate R 954 as highly pathogenic to several snail species, including C. virgata, T. pisana, and C. acuta[4]. Additionally, the parasitoid fly Sarcophaga villeneuveana was introduced to South Australia to control C. acuta, with varying degrees of success in different microhabitats[5]. While these methods have shown some promise, the push-pull strategy offers a new and potentially more effective approach by directly manipulating the snails' estivation behavior. In conclusion, the study conducted by the CSIRO European Laboratory represents a significant advancement in the management of invasive Mediterranean snails in Australia. By combining visual and chemical stimuli, the push-pull strategy effectively diverts snails from cultivated fields, reducing grain contamination and potentially saving the grain industry millions of dollars annually. This innovative approach could pave the way for more sustainable and effective pest management strategies in the future.

EnvironmentEcologyAnimal Science


Main Study

1) Toward a push-pull strategy against invasive snails using chemical and visual stimuli.

Published 20th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) Can Estivation Preferences Be Used to Develop Novel Management Tools against Invasive Mediterranean Snails?

3) Development of a High-Throughput Laboratory Bioassay for Testing Potential Attractants for Terrestrial Snails and Slugs.

4) Laboratory screening of nematodes isolated from south australia for potential as biocontrol agents of helicid snails.

Journal: Journal of invertebrate pathology, Issue: Vol 74, Issue 1, Jul 1999

5) Biocontrol of Invasive Conical Snails by the Parasitoid Fly Sarcophaga villeneuveana in South Australia 20 Years after Release.

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