Battling Slugs With Barriers, Traps & Sprays

Slugs are common yard pests 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 do their thing, young plants are especially at risk and can be destroyed entirely.


Illustrations From Wikimedia Commons - Click To View Larger

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


  • Coffee: Save leftover coffee to spray plants that have a problem, make sure to spray underneath the leaves as well as the stems and surrounding soil. You can also sprinkle a layer of used coffee grounds around the plant to ward off these pests. They won’t like it and will likely move on to greener pastures in a few short days.
  • Vinegar & Water: Pour 1 cup household vinegar and 1/2 cup water into a spray bottle. Spray the critters on the ground as you see them, but be careful not to spray the leaves of plants since the vinegar & water will damage them.


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

  • Copper: Copper rings, mesh and tapes can be placed around individual plants to deter them, the slug 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 plant, they will give up trying to reach the plant since it’s so uncomfortable for them 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 around plants with pest infestations. Reapply if it gets wet. Also mentioned in Natural Pesticides: Recipes & Tips.


Set out bait or traps to lure them. Some of the traps will kill them (by drowning) while others will just collect them for you to dispose of, some methods of disposal:

  • Submerse them in boiling water
  • Douse them heavily with salt or plop them in very salty water
  • Drop them in a pail of very soapy water

What not to do: toss them over the fence into the neighbor’s garden–that’s bad mojo!

  • 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 slugs. 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 check under them in the morning, you should find a happy slugfest enjoying their environment. Get rid of them in the garbage or kill them buy dunking in boiling water.
  • Grapefruit, orange, melon rinds, banana or potato peels attract slugs so leave a few piles of them around the yard (you’ll have a bunch of happy critters to deal with in the morning).

Tips & Info


These Little Guys Love To Munch On What's Growing In Your Garden

  • 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 munch away your pest problem.
  • How To Determine A Slug Problem: You’ll notice holes in leaves and silver or dark markings along the leaves (which is a trail of their mucus).
  • Did You Know: Slugs 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 early 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 of the plants they enjoy feeding on: Mushrooms, celery, potatoes, flowers (pansies), leafy vegetables (like lettuce), green beans. It’s not only the top of plants that they enjoy feasting on, they’ll get down into the roots too.

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What Readers Are Saying: 49 Comments
  1. Carin says:

    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 says:


      • Sean says:

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

        • Karin says:

          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 says:

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

    • Moe says:

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

  2. Susan says:

    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.

  3. Darlene says:

    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 says:

      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 says:

        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 says:

        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 says:

          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 says:

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

      • Mary Kay says:

        I feel badly about killing any thing and have to apologise to the bug when I have to smack it… 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 says:

      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. 🙂

  4. carol says:

    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.

  5. Kathryn says:

    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!

  6. Megan says:

    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.

  7. Katie says:

    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 says:

      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!!

  8. Nora says:

    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.

  9. Cheri says:

    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!

  10. Erin says:

    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!

  11. Barb says:

    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.

  12. Vic says:

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

  13. janezee says:

    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.

  14. Erin says:

    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!

  15. LJ says:

    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.

  16. Southern Byrd says:

    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.

  17. Delia says:

    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)

  18. Karin says:

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

  19. Deb says:

    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.

  20. Alyssa says:

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

  21. JayPea says:

    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!

  22. lynnie says:

    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.

  23. Veronica says:

    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!

  24. Marie Fullerton says:

    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!

  25. Luke says:

    I have a snail problem. In my mailbox. The slimy shelled little b@$/@^&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

  26. GI-SYD says:

    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…

  27. Jim says:

    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.

  28. Susie Richardson says:

    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.

  29. ASH says:

    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.

  30. Sue says:

    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!

  31. martha b stone says:

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

  32. Lori says:

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

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