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Snails and Slugs
Plant Pests
Mice and Rats
Dogs and Cats
Moths, Flies and Fruit Flies
Yellow Jackets

Snails and Slugs

Even though snails and slugs look different, they are essentially the same creature.  They represent two of the most destructive pests known to gardeners.  These animals feed nocturnally, they prefer moist, warm conditions and rarely venture out during cold spells.  They don't like extremely dry or hot conditions  Snails will begin to hatch from eggs after 20-30 days of favorable weather.  They are indiscriminate eaters.

A recent issue of North Bay Gardens" features a unique snail stew/soup which may appeal to the epicurean but the most effective snail control is through the use of baits.  Snails use your garden bed as a highway to get to the plants. If you put bait in their path they will stop there and eat the mix.  Snail baits such as Corry's offer effective protection during damp conditions.  This makes it a favorite around irrigated areas when it stops raining.  Liquid snail killers like Bug-Geta can be droppered out and offers protection in some areas unsuitable for dry baits. 


Snails can be repelled using a copper barrier. This copper tape must create some type of electrolysis between the snail and tape making it undesirable to cross over. If you take a piece of steel wool and lightly clean the copper occasionally it is even more effective.  We have a new product called Sluggo that kills snails with a mineral found naturally in the ground and is toxic just to snails and slugs.    Snails will also climb into dishes filled with beer and drown.

Going out at night and crushing as many as you can is a good first step to getting rid of the bulk of the critters.




Plant Pests

Pest control soaps are not very invasive to the plant and can get the job done, but lose effectiveness as the soap dries. If you are patient, aphids can be controlled with regular insecticidal soap applications. Ladybugs are not only "cute" but are effective aphid gatherers. Ladybugs should be released into damp areas below the affected areas in the evening, otherwise they just fly away to be effective in your neighbor's garden.

There is a sticky substance (actually it is tree sap) called "Tanglefoot" which creates a trap for insects (don't use this in conjunction with ladybugs). Often people use this product at the base of a tree to keep ants from ascending to the fruit. Tanglefoot is also useful in keeping ants off hummingbird feeders and repelling birds from undesirable roosts. Birds quickly learn that they don't want this stuff on their feet.  Other products such as hot pepper wax spray give quick results, but are trickier to use. Garden sulfur can be used safely in conjunction with soaps to help prevent black spot and rust.


Mice and Rats

A mouse can have up to eight litters of 4 to 6 pups in its one-year lifespan.  It can squeeze through a 1/4" opening. 

Click here for an excellent booklet on Rat control put together by the Marin/Sonoma Vector Control District


Traps are safer than poison baits and you can see the results.  There is no risk of an odor problem from a mouse dying from poison in an inaccessible area.

It's hard to beat the old mouse trap for getting rid of the mouse in your pantry.  Bait it with peanut butter and set it in a secluded spot where you have seen mouse droppings.  Put the trigger end against the wall.  Check it daily and wear gloves when disposing of the dead mouse.

There are also glue traps and live traps available for mice.

Rats are a real problem.  They are shy of new objects and will avoid a new trap.  Unset traps should be left in an infested are for a week or so and then set for the most effective kill.  For a big infestation, use a lot of traps unset and baited with peanut butter so the rats get used to feeding on and around the traps.  Then after a week, set them.  This gets the maximum result without the rats becoming trap shy.


Bait is quite effective, with rodents dying 4 - 5 days after bait is eaten.  You must be careful that pets and other animals don't eat the dead critter because they can suffer the same fate.  Anti-coagulant type baits are a bit safer as the pet can be treated by a vet.



Deer are best repelled by making a solution of eggs and water and placing it in a sprayer.  Whisk together 4 eggs and stir them slowly into a gallon of water. Strain the mixture and put it in your sprayer. Spray it on vulnerable plants and repeat once a month and after a heavy rain.  Make sure to clean your sprayer as the egg mixture will clog it as it dries.

You can also buy red pepper spray which is not as stinky during hot weather, but not as effective either.

Deer rapidly get used to scare tactics, so they may work for a while but not indefinitely.


Dogs and Cats

We have several dog and cat repellent products you can spray in affected areas that are quite effective.

Our best selling repellent is Ropel, an all natural granular formula that repels dogs, cats and birds.  it prevents defecation or urination on lawns, flowers, hedges, trees, and shrubs. Also prevents digging in lawns and flower gardens.




Spiders are beneficial creatures.  Because they feed on large quantities of insects, they should be tolerated as much as possible in the home and garden.  There are over 3,000 species in the U.S.  and only a small number of these are dangerous to people.  In the Bay Area, really about the only spider to cause concern is the black widow, We will give you the rap sheet on her next month.

Very few spiders can pierce human skin.  If you discover small bites that are mild and disappear within a day or two, there is probably nothing to be concerned about.  Of course, if a bite affects a large area, is very painful, and/or is followed by dizziness, fever, nausea, or any other severe symptoms, seek medical advice immediately.

What to do?  Harmless or not, the presence of spiders or their webs in the house can be upsetting.  Unfortunately, spider webs are often associated with poor housekeeping, under the assumption that a "clean" house harbors no insects or spiders at all.  On the contrary, spiders can be an asset to the good housekeeper since they capture and consume many pest insects before the human residents ever see the pests.

Inside the home: Vacuum.  The easiest and safest way to get rid of them is to vacuum up both spiders and webs. The dust inside the vacuum bag will quickly suffocate any spiders you catch.  Get rid of webs.  If you're willing to share your house with a few spiders, you can periodically vacuum up webs that are eyesores or embarrassing to you as a housekeeper.  

Leaving the spiders will allow them to continue to do their pest control work.  Keep spiders out of the house.  Caulk cracks and crevices.  Install screens on windows and doors.  Reduce their food supply.  What are those spiders eating -  fruit flies?  Try storing ripening fruit in paper bags that are folded over twice and sealed with a paper clip.  Are houseflies the spider's treat?  Install screens on windows and doors.

Outside the home: Don't spray your garden or around the outside of your house to kill spiders.  Outdoors, spiders are providing a very useful pest control service.  Leave them to do their job.

Black Widow Spiders

The Black Widow found in the Bay Area is a shiny black spider with a red hour-glass-shaped mark on the underside of its abdomen.

For many people, bite symptoms are not significant enough to warrant medical treatment.  Bites are of most concern for the very young, very old, and those who are seriously ill.

Black widows are not aggressive and make no effort to attack.  They prefer to be still or retreat and are reluctant to bite, even when provoked..  These spiders spend their lives in webs waiting for prey.  They do not go out hunting.

Where are Black Widows found?

            Usually (but not always) near the ground

            Dark dry, protected crevices in and around buildings

            Lower portions of seldom-used dark, dry storage areas

            Wood. lumber or rock piles

            Stacked patio furniture, flower pots or baskets

            Rodent burrows

            Water meter or irrigation control boxes

How to detect Black Widows and avoid bites:

Look for Black Widows with a flashlight.  At night these spiders move to the center of their webs and are more visible.

Wear gloves when cleaning the areas listed above.

Teach children not to tease spiders and to always look where they place their hands.


Moths, Flies and Fruit Flies

We carry the Pantry Pest Trap and Clothes Moth traps which use a safe attractant to lure the moths to stick in the trap.  Make sure to keep grain, rice, cereal and bird seed in airtight containers so any moths the hatch out of those will be contained. Mothballs with their strong smell are usually more annoying than the moths.

The Stick-A-Fly Trap is also effective on fruit flies for some reason.  It has an attractant and sits on the windowsill.  Here's a well-populated one...


Fruit flies are otherwise best dealt with by getting rid of the food source before a big hatch.  The time to do it is when you see just a few - before a big hatch.  So refrigerate what you can and cover the rest with dish towels etc.



The experts say if you've got mosquitoes on your property, you've got standing water on your property too.  So empty out water that has collected in buckets and wheelbarrows, boat and pool covers - anything that will hold water for more than a few days.

Click here for a pamphlet on mosquito control.

We sell mosquito dunks you can place in a pond or water feature in your yard to prevent development of mosquitoes.


Securing the food source is the best way to deal with ants. 

There are two types of ants: sweet eating and grease eating.  Use Terro for ants that attracted to sweets and Grant's for the grease eaters. 

Stakes or bait stations can be placed around the foundation of your home to prevent entry or inside to get rid of invaders.

You can place drops of Terro in the paths of ants and they will eat the borax solution and take it back to the nest where it will kill the queen and the entire colony.  Borax is one of the safest and least toxic chemicals available.  Grants is best used by putting a drop or two of warm water in the bait hole and stirring with a toothpick.


One of the best ways to get rid of yellowjackets is to trap them in the spring, when they are few and you don't really notice them. Use meat baits in spring and early summer, sweet baits later in the year.
We sell several traps that use a sweet attractant and are  available in one-time-use or reusable forms. They are quite effective and we sell lots of them.

If you've found the nest, there are sprays you can use to kill the wasps.  Some work from over 20 feet away.  Do this at night - all the yellowjackets are in the nest and since they can't see well at night, they are not as dangerous.