Slugs and snails are sneaky because they attack under the cover of darkness.  They will go to great lengths to obtain their favourite foods. Slugs to this end will stretch out to twenty times their normal length enabling them to squeeze through the smallest openings.  Those slimy trails that they leave behind while unsightly also act as a signpost on the super highway to their favourite foods.  Yes, on subsequent evening forages all the other snails and slugs will follow this super highway too. 

Well if that was not enough Slugs not only over winter very successfully in the soil and under garden debris.  They also start reproducing long before you start your spring gardening and continue to do so until winter.  Their eggs are white ovals in clusters of up to two dozen and will stay dormant in the soil until the temperature and moisture levels are just right.  Oh yes, I almost forgot so you think you killed them all, well slugs are hermaphrodites and can do it very well by themselves.  Thank you very much!

Controlling snails and slugs requires persistence.  They love cool moist weather and dislike dry hot (over 80 degrees) weather.  Hand picking and dropping them into salty water is messy but very satisfying.  You can also use a long reach grabber or a barbeque fork to gather them. Toads eat them so encourage toads by putting out some toad abodes.  You can also control snails and slugs by having some of the following around: frogs, turtles, garter snakes, ducks, birds and Rhode Island Red hens.   Barriers are also used to keep the snails and slugs out.  A circle of crushed eggshells, diatomaceous earth or wood ashes around your valuable specimens will work.  A barrier of copper strips will also prevent them from crossing because it has a natural electrical charge, which repels them.  Large clear plastic pop bottles with the bottoms cut out and the tops removed then placed over your very young seedlings will act like a little greenhouse and also keep the snails and slugs out.  Need a haircut.  Your hair can be laid out as a barrier.  If you do not have enough hair then try a circle of coffee grounds, thorny twigs, rosemary, pine needles, mullein leaves, oak leaves, sandpaper, roofing shingles, hardware cloth, wormwood or tansy.  

There are all kinds of traps and baits out there.  Sometimes I think there are as many of them as there gardeners.  None of them are perfect so try different ones to see which ones work best for you.  Here are some that should work.

Comfrey:  Slugs will come in droves to eat this.  So place it in the troubled area for several nights then remove the slugs and put them into a bucket of salty water.  Repeat!

Grapefruit or Orange Rinds:  In the troubled area in the evening you can overturn half of a grapefruit or orange after you have eaten the insides.  The next day scrape out the slugs and snails dispose them in the usual manner.

Wet Carpet:  Place pieces of wet carpet on the ground in the troubled areas.  Each morning scrape off the snails and slugs.   Dispose of them in the usual manner.

Wood:  Place pieces of wood on the ground in the troubled area. Each morning scrape off the snails and slugs. Dispose of them in the usual manner.  Note: This also works for other harmful insects too!

Commercial Slug & Snail Baits:  Many of these contain metaldhyde and may attract pets and other animals who after ingesting them may die.  Always follow the label directions.

Commercial Slug & Snail Baits:  The newest ones contain Iron sulphate. These are said to be safer.  Always follow the label directions.


SLUGS PREFER: In 1987, Colorado State University Entomology Professor Whitney Cranshaw had his students conduct a test for the beverage that slugs liked the best.  Here is the results of that experiment:  note Budweiser was chosen as the test standard and the number of slugs choosing Budweiser represented one Bud Unit 1.00.

And the winner was Kingsbury Malt 

Beverage  Preference Rate

Bud Light






Coors Light


Fort Collins CO tap water


Gallo Pink Chablis


Kingsbury Malt Beverage






Miller Light


Old Milwaukee




Sugar-water and Yeast


The method you choose to control your snails and slugs is up to you but always do it safely following the label directions.  Remember one of the best methods for controlling snails and slugs is regular cultivation.  Just by breaking up the clods of soil where they can hide and breed will with any luck dramatically reduce your snail and slug population.  Happy hunting!

Listen to a sample of Charlotte Diamond's Slimy the Slug. Click Here




Copyright 2003