Did you know there are two types of slugs? Predator slugs and plant-eating slugs. The predator slugs aren’t as big of a problem, but if your garden’s plagued by plant-eating slugs, you need to find a way to stop those from eating your plants or everything will be destroyed. Some of the most effective methods are listed below.
The three main types of plant-eating slugs to get rid of from your garden include:
- The Pacific Banana Slug (Ariolimiax Columbianus)
- The Giant Garden Slug (Limax Maximus)
- The European Black Slug (Arion Rufus)
All these slugs and the closely related snails can be either deterred from eating your plants, trapped and humanely removed or killed for trying.
Read below to find the various methods of slug control and choose the approach that feels right for you.
How to Tell if You Have a Plant-Eating Slug Problem?
Tell-tale signs of a problematic slug problem are seeing holes on plants including the leaves, stems, flowers and bulbs that’s usually accompanied with a silvery trail of slime.
If instead it looks like most of your plant was cut off with scissors, you probably have rabbits.
If you’re unsure if you have a snail or slug problem, the truth is usually in the damage caused because snails have small teeth to chew through plants, whereas slugs use their tongue to rasp on plants.
The effect of slugs rasping leaves tiny holes on the foliage of plants, but those are large enough for snails to sink their tiny little teeth into, exasperating the damage.
Slugs are most active during the night so unless you’re happy to prowl around your garden after dark very late into the night, chances are you’ll want an easier solution to get rid of slugs.
Fortunately, there’s a few ways and some are pet-safe, while others aren’t as friendly.
The Most Effective Methods to Stop Slugs from Eating Plants
1 – Put a Bird Feeder and Bird Bath in Your Garden
The majority of birds will feed early morning, with the exception of a few nocturnal birds such as the night heron, which is usually found in North America, but are starting to be found further afield – as far as the UK.
Wildlife experts believe climate change is causing certain species of birds to migrate to different areas. While night herons may not be active in your area, plenty of other birds will be and they can be beneficial in your garden.
Other than feeding on slugs, they help with weed control and pest control because they also feed on mosquitoes, aphids, and spiders, which are some of the most problematic garden pests.
If you don’t have nocturnal birds in your area, you can also use the next tip to slow the slugs down for morning birds to take care of your problem for you.
2 – Feed Slugs Bran
Two things happen when you feed bran to slugs and none are a pretty sight. Bran swells slugs up so much that they eventually explode, unless a bird finds them first.
Being in a swelled state makes slugs more attractive to birds so they’re either going to be eaten up by a predator or they’re going to blow up. Either way, they’re going to die.
Bran’s a much better alternative to salt as you can place bran around your garden without it affecting soil quality or plant fertilizer in the same way that salt would.
Salt can be used to get rid of slugs but it’s a messy way to go about it as it’s going to leave a puddle of orange goo in its wake.
3 – The Beer Trap Method
Search anywhere online for how to get rid of slugs and you’re guaranteed to find beer traps mentioned. The idea is that because slugs are attracted to it, they’ll sip the liquid, fall in, then drown.
You can set the same trap with salt water, however as it’s the yeast in beer that slugs are attracted to, a little yeast and sugar works the same as beer.
For the traps to work though, it’s best to use a container to set the beer trap and bury that in the ground leaving about 1” above the soil – just enough for a slug or a snail to slither into.
Whether they work or not depends on how many you use. These are only effective when you set multiple beer traps a few feet apart. The hope is that the slugs drink so much that they’ll eventually fall into the liquid and be unable to get out, causing them to drown.
The thing is, most won’t. YouTube Channel, RemoteTimelapse did a video experiment on the effectiveness of beer traps. Here’s the results:
After seeing the inefficiency of beer traps for slugs, you’ll want to employ a better alternative.
4 – Pellets for Slugs and Snails
Some pellets are more effective than others. Certain types can be so harsh to any wildlife and the environment, you wouldn’t want to use them.
The most dangerous are the ones that use metaldehyde, the same substance that can poison cats and dogs, and are toxic to birds. Organic pellets usually contain ferric phosphate and they’re just as effective as any other type of slug pellet without the harsh effects on everything else they come into contact with.
Going further, there’s also another brand called “Growing Success” that’s formulated to only kill slugs and snails and is certified organic and safe to use around all plants including edible plants.
5 – Slug Nematodes
Slug nematodes are among the most beneficial and effective way to control slugs, with the exception of ground slugs because nematodes live in the soil.
They’re applied to moist soil with a watering can and the soil needs to be kept moist for about 3-weeks after application so they can thrive and move around.
The temperature should usually be kept at around 5oF (10OC). It’s when slugs are underground that the slugs will feed on the nematodes.
Once ingested, the nematodes become a parasite causing the slug to swell up to the extent that they stop feeding within a few days, then die within a week to ten days.
It should be noted that while most marketing materials highlight these as being suitable for use on edible plants, that’s only regarding plant foods that’ll be eaten by those with good health. They can be harmful to people with a weakened immune system.
6 – Copper Tape and Copper Mesh Barriers
Copper is among the most known compound to deter slugs, ranging from copper pennies, to tapes, to mesh made of copper and even using copper compounds in sprays to directly apply to slugs.
Naturally, some types are more effective than others. Coins made of copper will rarely work unless you use a lot of them to create a wide barrier. Tapes and mesh are the most effective copper solutions.
But, you do need to be careful with this one because copper is also toxic to plants. If you’re putting copper tape around plant pots, make sure it’s on the pot and not in contact with the soil. This is best used in addition to other slug control techniques as it’s only a deterrent.
Copper’s believed to cause a mild electric shock, making it unpleasant for slugs, causing them to turn and go elsewhere. But, if they’re hungry and determined enough, slugs will cross copper tape.
To prevent slugs from reaching your plants by using a copper barrier, you’ll have better success when you understand how copper works, because it’s much more than that mild electric shock most talk about when providing tips for slug control.
Simon Mann of Pest-Control-Products.net gives an easy to understand breakdown of how copper effects slugs, describing it as a gentler way to control them, so it’s ideal for those of you squeamish about killing slugs in any way, preferring a trap and release approach.
With copper, as Simon Mann writes, “it gives them a chance to flee.” If they persist, they will regret it because the copper causes them to dry out, so it’s not about the electric shock. It’s about how the copper interacts with the slime slugs and snails secrete.
Turns out, they need that slime to move around. Without a slime trail, they can’t move. So, while gentler as a repellent, if they do persist, they’ll eventually be paralyzed.
To make copper effective as a barrier, it needs to take a slug several minutes to cross it. If you’re using copper tape, it’s best to use at least 38 mm copper tape, or better yet, copper mesh that runs about 5”.
The main benefit of using copper as a slug deterrent is that for those that are persistent enough to cross the barrier, by the time they reach your plants, they’re so stressed that they can’t eat.
For maximum effectiveness, use a copper mesh roughly 5” in height, supported by small ground stakes/pegs about 1 ft apart and curl the top of the mesh outward away from your plants so that if any slugs do manage to cross it and reach the top, they’re more likely to fall to the ground.
7 – Egg Shells
Egg shells have a similar effect on slugs and snails as copper, only without the effect of drying them out. They’re only a deterrent so far as in it’s uncomfortable for them to slide their bodies over crushed egg shells because of the sharpness. It’s still possible though.
The wider a barrier you can set with crushed eggshells, the better results you’ll have. The added benefit here is that egg shells decompose, and as I cover in another article about homemade fertilizers, they make a good fertilizer for your soil, giving your plants a calcium boost.
8 – Regular Bait Traps to Trap and Release
For those who’d rather not kill the slugs, you can tempt them into containers such as glass jars or empty milk cartons by placing some foods they’re attracted to in the containers.
The foods that slugs tend to go for are citrus fruits, dry pet food and cabbage leaves. A no-fail food that’s going to attract slugs is strawberries. They also tend to favor moist and dark areas such as under wood planks and cardboard boxes.
By placing a container with cabbage leaves, grapefruit, lemon rinds or dry pet food inside the container near a piece of wood laid flat or cardboard, it should tempt slugs and snails out of their habitat and into the container.
You can either empty the containers into a field or seal them up and put them in the trash.
Naturally, as there are a range of methods you can use to stop slugs from eating your plants, some methods listed above will be more effective than others.
Copper mesh and copper tape used as barriers are usually the most effective, provided the barrier is wide enough.
For larger areas though, slug nematodes can be more effective, but it is a pricier solution, usually used by organic farmers and rarely by home gardeners.
The simplest addition you can do is put a bird feeder into your garden to encourage more wildlife to visit your garden that’ll act as predators, ridding your garden of slugs and snails each morning. If you happen to have night birds in your area, even better!
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.