Invasion Of Garden Slugs? Here’s How To Combat Them

These common garden pests are soft-bodied mollusks that are like snails but without the shell for protection. Their size can be between 1/4″ to 10″ in length and come in a variety of colors from light grays or yellows to shades of black.

They will cause serious damage to plants if left to roam at will, young seedlings are especially at risk and can be destroyed entirely.

Here are a few different home remedies and tips that I’ve gathered over the years that will help combat these wee creatures, most are natural options that don’t include harsh chemicals.

Fair Warning: The job is unpleasant and the little fellas likely feel pain. If you have any suggestions for more humane methods, please share in the comments section below.

Getting Rid Of Slugs

Spray Recipes:

DIY Coffee Repellent: Save leftover coffee to spray plants that have a problem, make sure to spritz underneath the leaves as well as the stems and surrounding soil.

You can also sprinkle a layer of used coffee grounds around vegetation to ward off these pests. They won’t like it and will typically move on to greener pastures in a few short days.

Vinegar: Pour 1 cup household vinegar and 1/2 cup water into a spray bottle. Spray the pests on the ground as they’re spotted, but be careful to avoid plants since this solution will damage leaves.

Barriers:

The idea for using barriers is to prevent or repel them from reaching the plants.

Copper: Copper rings, mesh and tapes can be placed around individual plants as a deterrent, the critter will receive a bit of a shock when it comes in contact with the copper. Look for these in your local garden center.

Egg Shells: Sprinkle a generous layer of crushed egg shells around the vegetation you want to protect, they will give up trying to reach the greenery since it’s so uncomfortable and prickly on their bodies to get across the jagged shells.

Diatomaceous Earth: A natural solution for insects of all kinds (ants, snails, etc.). Sprinkle diatomaceous earth on top of soil in locations with pest infestations. Reapply if it gets wet. Also mentioned in Natural Pesticides: Recipes & Tips.

DIY Traps:

Set out bait or traps to lure the little fellows. Some of the traps will kill (by drowning) while others will just gather a bunch together (still alive) for you to dispose of.

What not to do: Toss them over the fence into the neighbor’s garden–that’s bad mojo! Besides, they’ll just come right back. They can travel over 20 yards each day

Beer: Bury a small dish or plastic container up to its rim so it’s level with the top of the ground. Fill with beer in the early evening and check in the morning–the dish should be full of their corpses. Empty the bowl and replenish each night. Change beer every 24 hours to be effective. Some find it more successful to add a bit of molasses to the beer.

Yeast: Bury a small dish as above then pour in one of these recipes: 1 tablespoon of baker’s yeast, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1 cup of lukewarm water; another recipe is 1 tablespoon flour, 1/2 teaspoon baker’s yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar mixed with 1 cup of warm water. In the morning you’ll find a bowl full of drowned slugs (they are drawn to the fermenting yeast).

Wet Newspaper Stacks: They will be attracted to the dampness and the shelter the newspaper provides. Lay the papers down in the early evening then peek underneath in the morning, you should find a happy slugfest enjoying their environment.

Citrus/Food Attraction: Grapefruit, orange, melon rinds, banana or potato peels attract slugs so scatter a few piles around the yard (you’ll have a bunch of happy critters to deal with in the morning).

I have a few methods of disposal listed below but fair warning: These are unpleasant.

  • Submerge in boiling or heavily salted water.
  • Use scissors to cut them in half.
  • Douse heavily with salt.
  • Drop in a pail of very soapy water.

Tips & Info

  • Illustrations
    Illustrations From Wikimedia Commons - Click To View Larger
    Did You Know: Birds are a natural enemy of this pest and love to feed on them. Keep a bird bath in your yard (near the problem area if possible) to encourage birds to hang around–they’ll be happy to snack away your pest problem.
  • How To Determine An Infestation: You’ll notice holes in leaves and silver or dark markings along the leaves (which is a trail of their mucus).
  • Did You Know: These little fellows are mollusks that belong to the same family as clams!
  • They are most active and feast at night when it’s cool, you likely won’t see them unless it’s early morning or evening. They hide during the day in cool, moist spots with some shelter (under garden rocks, etc.). and thrive in moist conditions, preferring mild weather.
  • What Do They Eat? Some things they enjoy feeding on: Mushrooms, celery, potatoes, flowers (pansies), leafy vegetables (like lettuce), green beans. It’s not only the top greenery that they enjoy feasting on, they’ll get down into the roots too.

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Comments

    • Carin
    Reply

    Thanks for posting these safe methods of protecting our gardens. Last spring we were at the vet when a desperate family brought in their clearly beloved big huge great dane, suffering so all due to eating snail/slug poison. They call is poison for a reason.
    I think as a slug I would prefer to go in a nice beer stupor!

      • REX
      Reply

      I HAVE TRIED MANY WAYS ammonia,coffee,salt and just stepping on them. THE BEST WAY I FOUND WAS BEER TRAPS. DIG A HOLE IN THE GROUND, PLACE A CUP WITH BEER AT NIGHT AND WAIT TILL MORNING. YOU’LL FIND THEM IN THE CUP AND DEAD. YES THEY LOVE BEER AND CLIMB INTO IT GET DRUNK AND DORWN. HAD SOME FRIENDS I’D TO TRY THIS ON. GOOD LUCK!

        • Sean
        Reply

        Wouldn’t you need a lot of holes dug and cups of beer?

          • Karin
          Reply

          The beer really works………..get a few of those small cat food tins/plastic cups………….dig small hole in flower bed or box…fill with beer…..and watch those slugs get drunk and drown…every morning there will be more…they don’t even care what kind of beer…I just throw the slugs into the grass at side of lawn…and either the birds or the racoons eat them…never a slug the next day to be seen….I put one “cup” into every wooden planter appox 2/2 feet………

            • Gary Hurd

            Beer works,,, BUT,,, in the morning, you have a can of beer and slug slime that you have to deal with—- YUK – YUK – YUK

          • Sara
          Reply

          I have a garden that’s on my townhouse patio. My patio has a concrete type floor, and a wooden fence. Therefore I have a semi raised/potted vegetable garden. I don’t have a way to bury the cups or bowls of beer. The slugs are finding it easy peasy to climb right up into my potted veggies tho. How do you think I should do the beer idea? Using the cut on half, upside down and inverted soda bottle type trap? Or will they climb into those little cat dishes you can pick up from Walmart for like a dollar? ( Really don’t want to invest millions on killing slugs, here! Lol) any ideas are welcome! It’s crazy bc I went out to my garden 2 days ago and spotted a few of them. But, with the crazy thunderstorms, and mix of sun, humidity and serious heat (hey, if you dislike the weather in New England, wait a minute. It’ll change.!) the last few days, I went out today and not only are there a TON MORE, but they’re freaking gargantuan! Suddenly they’ve attained snail super powers and have transformed into these larger, plump yellow buggers! They’ve since destroyed 2 entire sugar snap pea plants that were beautiful, and they’re getting into my spinach now! They WON’T TAKE MY STRAWBERRIES ALIVE tho! Need help, asap! Thanks so much! Sara

      • Moe
      Reply

      I use 0.5% beer. A lot cheaper and just as effective.

        • denewf
        Reply

        0.5% ain’t beer in Canada

    • Susan
    Reply

    Heard collecting snipped hair clippings from the hairdresser or barbershop and scattering that around the plants work the same way eggshells would. Beer traps doesn’t work if you live in an area that rains a lot. It just dilutes it and it loses its effectiveness. Been there, done that. Didn’t work. No bok choy.

    • Darlene
    Reply

    You REALLY don’t want to put salt on slugs. I did. Once.
    The poor thing reared up on its back half, mouth open in a silent scream. Then it wreathed in pain, blood oozing from it until I quickly stepped on it. I was heart-sick. There are much more humane ways of killing slugs than salt.

      • liz
      Reply

      its nice to see someone has a heart. i was trying to find a way to keep the slugs away from the crumbs or residue left from the handful of nuts i put out for the squirrels twice a week…. just b/c of all the mucus markings all over. But i don’t want this badly enough to hurt the poor little guys. heck, I’M the one drawing them in the first place… they just want to eat.

      We are so arrogant to think that a life’s worth can be determined by us…based on our shallow and naive assessments of usefulness,convenience, attractiveness, size, whatever. And further still, that we have the right to just snuff if out b/c we don’t want it.

        • Michelle
        Reply

        Liz….I agree with you 100%. I was leaving treats out for a stray cat in my neighborhood. After a rainy day, I went outside to check on her treats. To my surprise I found A LOT of slugs around the treats. Instead of thinking how to kill these guys, I was just watching them eat. I honestly NEVER seen 1 slug in my yard all the years living here. Now everynight they come out “waiting” for the cat treats. I think it’s sooo cute!

        • Jonna
        Reply

        My garden is a very smal garden, not mutch bigger than my house. Last summer I could, every evening, collekt 200 slugs. Here in Denmark we have very agressive slugs. We call them killersnails No bird will eat them. They dont care about hair and coffie.
        They love beer but it does not kill the ones in my garden. I have to cut them in two pieces. And I have to keep the dogs away from the beer

          • Debbie
          Reply

          Jonna I would like to know if they are black? In southeast Alaska we have black ones that chickens,ducks and birds will not eat.Same here you can get 200 a night

          • Caron
          Reply

          I do know what you mean. Slugs in Calgary are small and cute but also survive everything I throw at them.

        • Mary Kay
        Reply

        I feel badly about killing any thing and have to apologise to the bug when I have to smack it…..do the birds eat them while they are alive ? so what is worse…being eaten alive or getting drunk and happy on beer and then dying….I am really torn and usually do not do anything..just put up with lots of holes in the Hosta’s….

      • Terry
      Reply

      Darlene, I agree. Salt is just plain sick, mean and warped. Beer bars make them so very happy on their way out of this world. My slugs were so well trained after the first couple of “Beer Parties”, they were waiting for the next refill… in the “In ground” empty dishes. I could almost see them banging their mugs on the bar….
      It Works like a charm… other than the smell of old beer in your garden. 🙂

    • carol
    Reply

    When we lived in Houston, we had an awful problem with slugs. They still make me shudder. 🙁 Anyway, a neighbor told us to sprinkle them with salt. I used to go out to the patio early every morning with my salt box and shake away. After a few weeks of this, no more slugs.

    • Kathryn
    Reply

    Slugs used to work their way into our kitchen. What a treat to walk barefoot into the kitchen and find a slug the hard (soft, slimy, squishy?) way. We eventually put a toad in the backyard. It fed on the slugs and rarely made itself known to us. No more morning surprises in the kitchen!

    • Megan
    Reply

    We put a small bowl filled with beer, the cheap stuff, in our herb garden. We bury it so the lip is even with the dirt. Slugs looooove it. The next morning it is filled with them.

    • Katie
    Reply

    Make a cover for your beer trap.. prevent the rain from diluting.
    Take a plastic coke bottle, cut off the top from where it starts to narrow.. insert the screw top end in the remaining..
    Put your slug bait in there.. it attracts the snails and slugs, and then they cant exit, even if they are able to..
    You know also how many slugs/snails you are having to deal with.
    Empty at leisure. Just hide the thing under a big broccoli plant or similar

      • Laura
      Reply

      Very smart, Katie! I’ll do it! I have no love for the nasty, slimy, destructive things – I can’t believe anyone thinks they’re “cute.” They’re disgusting!!

    • Nora
    Reply

    I tried sprinkling DOG HAIR all around my Strawberries that the slugs were attacking. It works.
    It was in an old gardening book and said it irritates the slugs.

    I was happy to try something the was free and non chemical.

      • Laura
      Reply

      p.s.: SALT is TERRIBLE for your soil & plants!

    • Cheri
    Reply

    I use the beer trick. Works great. They don’t care if it is cheap, out of date or just “near beer”. Just make sure to empty out early morning. Dead slugs in beer that has sat out in the Texas sun all day is really nasty!

    • Erin
    Reply

    We have tried everything living up here in Washington State! Beer! It has become our best friend in the garden w these little guys. We keep a steady supply starting in Spring of cheap beer. Although I think the corner store man might suspect there is a drinking problem down the road! LOL!

    • Barb
    Reply

    Sand. It’s good for the ground, non toxic to the plants and animals, and cuts up the sluggs if they try to ‘walk’ across it. Just put it around your plants and no more sluggs. They haven’t bothered my Hostas in years.

    • Vic
    Reply

    Smear a line of vaseline around your pots about 2 – 3 inches from the top, slugs or snails will not cross it.

    • janezee
    Reply

    I keep bamboo skewers in the beds for spearing them. Their families come to feast on them, and you can catch more. They particularly like to snuggle up to my soaker hoses.

    I pour my beer into wine bottles laid on their sides with the lip at ground level. Empty frequently, as the stench is not pleasant when they start to decay.

    • Erin
    Reply

    Looking to do something with the slugs in my first vegetable garden. They’re so big… I can’t even think of squishing them, ewww. Right now, I’ve been pulling them off my plants with a plastic spoon and throwing them into the bushes. Not a long term solution, I know. When these suggestions say to “dispose” of the slugs, what exactly do you do with them? What do you do when you attract them? What do you do with the drowned or boiled slugs? Again, my slugs are a good 4-6 inches long, and I’m really grossed out by them, I’m squirming right now, ugh!

    • LJ
    Reply

    ok I admit, its awful but if I have a clipper in my pocket, snip I cut the slug in half. I tell them they are now fertilizer for the garden.

    • Southern Byrd
    Reply

    D.E. food grade is the best stuff. Just found this out summer 2012. They will not crawl through it. Also, good for soil….keeps animal manure from smelling bad…fleas—gone…ants—gone…etc.

      • Valerie James
      Reply

      What is D.E.?

        • Brenda Guy
        Reply

        DE is Diatomaceous Earth

    • Delia
    Reply

    I put in a batch of ‘killer snails’ and it took a few years, but now I rarely find a slug. I just had to keep a patch of fallen leaves in one area of my garden for them to have a home and decaying vegetation to snack on when they can’t find other snails or slugs. (decollate snail, scientific name Rumina decollata)

    • Karin
    Reply

    Beer is the answer, even where it rains a lot….just renew each day…

    • Deb
    Reply

    I use half ammonia-half water in a sprayer. Works like salt in that it dehydrates the slimy things (works on snails,too). I haven’t had it kill any plants, but an occasional leaf burn happens if it puddles.

    • Alyssa
    Reply

    If any of you have chickens or ducks, they LOVE them. You can toss them in their for them to devour.

    • JayPea
    Reply

    Thanks for the slug ideas. I have pets so I won’t use the poisons you can buy. They all say toxic to pets. Then, there is the grandson. If they are toxic to pets, do I want them around him? Last year, I was wearing a pair of Crocs in the garden. Something felt icky and I looked down. A slug had crawled in one hole and out another, so its back end was sticking out one hole and its head was sticking out the other. I kicked that shoe off and it flew at least 10 feet. When I quit shrieking, I went to pick it up (walking VERY carefully). The slug was gone, thank God! I am normally not like that about bugs, but slugs creeping into my shoe while my foot is in there is just too gross!

    • lynnie
    Reply

    Arrrrgghhhh!!! I have stepped on huge slugs, but never got them in my shoes. My best solution was hand picking them, with gloves on of course. I then immediately threw them into a glass jar with salt water. One spring night I picked somewhere around a hundred small slugs off my hosta garden. It was a great solution and I saw very few slugs after that. I think I threw the whole thing in the trash.

    • Veronica
    Reply

    My daughter and I go slug hunting every day before sunset. I hand pick them and throw them in a bag with lots of salt. I felt a bit bad at the beginning, but my husband assured me they didn’t suffer much so I kept doing it. Last time, though, we fed them to the chickens who ate them gladly. From then on that’s what we’ve been doing. At least they serve as someone’s food. Yummy!

    • Marie Fullerton
    Reply

    Not slug help but greenfly. I didn’t believe this would work but I tried it and it does. When roses are attacked with greenfly, crush any you find and leave the squashed bugs on the rosebuds.. Sounds silly when I read that other greenfly will be put off by seeing/smelling/ sensing the dead greenfly they won’t land, I laughed but… No greenfly in my garden at all and I only had to do it a couple of times. As a bonus, the ants that have been plagued with every year have also gone!

    • Luke
    Reply

    I have a snail problem. In my mailbox. The slimy shelled little [email protected]$/@^&s eat my mail. And turn it into rolled paper mache snail poo. Obviously egg shells or coffee arent an option. What else could I try to get rid of them! Besides putting a blutongue lizard in my mailbox. Thanks in advance
    Luke

    • GI-SYD
    Reply

    Last night I waged a battle against slugs: Yeast/flour/sugar worked BEST. Each bowl (plastic punnet from strawberries) attracted dozens of slugs. More of those tonight. BEER worked less good. (Yest is also cheaper.) Wet Newspaper did nothing. I used a pair of long-nose pliers to pull slugs off my bean sprouts and pinch them in halves. Tonight going back in with Yeast, but also with Salt. I also learned that cockroaches are natural predators against slugs, I saw they pull them off the plants and kill/eat them. Me and my army of cockroaches…

    • Jim
    Reply

    I live in Scotland so we feed the slugs oats, they will gorge themselves to death. I also splice them in twain. They won’t go anywhere without their other half.

    • Susie Richardson
    Reply

    So happy to read this. Here in Miami, there are so many critters attacking my veggie plants and my ornamental plants! I see the holes in the leaves and the trails across the top of the leaves, and here I read its slugs. Not a big surprise as I am sure they are there. Will grab the Budweiser the kids left in the garage fridge and put it under a soda bottle top as we are in the rainy season. But how about those dark colored worms with yellow bands, making them look segmented. They have a hard shell, and I find them in the tracks for my sliding doors, and more often than I would like, dead inside the house. Not just my house; as a real estate agent, I see them everywhere. They seem to love moist, decomposing plants and mud. They coil up when disturbed. I often find them in the soil of plants when repotting them, especially when we’ve had a lot of rain.

    • ASH
    Reply

    SLUG FREE … EASY -JUST NEEDS A LITTLE EFFORT! I would not like to harm them at all. This is how I remain slug free … yipeee:-))
    Half fill a bag with peelings, lettuce and anything you know will give the little guys a nice feast. When its dark put on a pilots lamp on your head- this leaves you totally hands free.
    Take your bag and go collecting the slugs and snails putting them in your prepared food bag. When done tie up the top and use a pin to put some air holes in then put in the trash bin. You only have to do this for a little while and slugs and snails will be gone. I now look forward to going out and giving all kinds of slug snail a nice feed up before they go to the tip.

    Also it is quite fascinating to see the ground come alive at night with earthworms and all kinds of teenys.

    • Sue
    Reply

    We have so many slugs everywhere. They are eating everything. All the pepper plants, on the tomatoes and brussel sprouts. I have tried the beer, coffee, cayenne pepper, Epsom salt, garlic spray, good grief, everything. What worked best was doing all of the above. Then taking a pair of old tongs and picking them up individually, putting the slimy things in a cup of salt water. Also made beer plates and salted the slug bodies and left them there for their buddies to see. The population is way down but now have earwig and ant and moth problems. Can’t win!

    • martha b stone
    Reply

    I have about 250 hostas and I saw slugs on them what do i do

    • Lori
    Reply

    What is the best way to prevent slugs from getting all over the outside garage can?

    • D. Fierney
    Reply

    I use old asphalt shingles cut in strips and placed back to back….placed around my garden. The slugs will not go over or under the rough surface.

    • Crystal
    Reply

    Well my mom hates slugs but I secretly raised 2 slugs Acrylic and crylic my first slug slimy died from drowning we had no idea why

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