Q: Where can I purchase decollete snails, the variety that eat common brown snails? I used them several years ago and they cleared my garden of snails, but now the common snails are back.--C.R., Palos Verdes Estates
A: You can purchase decollete snails from J. Harold Mitchell Co. (at 305 Agostino Road in San Gabriel). Visit the store, or telephone (818) 287-1101 and they will be delivered by UPS. One hundred snails for $25 is the minimum order.
Some misinformation on the subject of decollete snails persists. According to John Calman, integrated pest management specialist at the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner's office, decollete snails do in fact eat common garden snails and their eggs. What makes them effective, however, is not their predacious nature but the fact that they displace the common garden snail. They occupy the same niche in the garden but cause much less visible damage because they are scavengers, eating all sorts of things, not just the leaves of your favorite plants (though, they will nibble on young bedding plants that have just been set out). If you want to protect young bedding plants from decollete snails, use snail bait or try a physical barrier such as a line of crushed eggshells, sharp sand or wood ashes.