The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Green Acres


September 23, 2020

The eastern heath snail is the only snail species that climbs to the top of the vegetation to keep cool. This behavior is the main identifier for the species. If you live in other areas of the county and have discovered this species in the tops of vegetation, please contact the Chouteau County Extension office at 622-3751. There may be some financial assistance to help manage the pest. For further information, please reference the Montana Fact Sheet on the eastern heath snail developed by the Montana Department of Agriculture.

The eastern heath snail is growing in numbers in the towns of Belt, Great Falls, Highwood and Monarch. There is growing concern that the snail is not going to be just a pest in these four towns. The snail could be transported into Golden Triangle wheat fields and cause serious problems. In Australia, the snail is a contaminant in grains leading to discounts or deeming the grain unacceptable to grain handling authorities. In addition, the mucous inside the snail can contribute to plugging up combines during harvest. It is vital to our agricultural industry that humans do not spread this pest. The snail can be transported in many ways including cars, trucks, equipment, hay and firewood. Please take precautions to ensure transport does not take place. Please take extra precautions if you are driving a car or piece of machinery to a grain or hay field.

The snail is close to the size of a dime. It has white with dark brown spiral brown bands and feeds on a wide range of plant species including alfalfa, clover, lupine, sanfoin, wheat, and barley. Populations develop on a wide variety of plants including grasses, ornamentals, trees (including fruit), shrubs and weeds The snail is found in vegetation, under rocks, boards, and refuse. It is known for climbing on vegetation, fence posts and other upright objects to escape high ground temperatures and will gather in enormous numbers in a behavior called massing. Snails survive long periods of dry conditions by withdrawing into their shells and sealing the opening with a mucous membrane. Reproduction has been observed to take place in the spring and fall in North America. The species will overwinter in the soil.

To reduce and manage snail numbers, apply molluscicides approved for use in Montana. Use granular molluscicide baits having either metaldehyde or iron phosphate as the active ingredient. There are a variety of brand name molluscicides with these ingredients which have appropriate labeling for the sites to be treated.

Montana State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Montana Counties Cooperating MSU Extension is an equal opportunity/affirmative action provider of educational outreach.


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