8 Ways to Get Rid of Slugs.

Slugs. They eat dahlias, strawberries, potatoes, roses, tulips, carrots and anything on the verge of decomposing. BUT they’re also food for birds and other animals. Here’s how to get rid of slugs without killing anything else.

A glass milk bottle filled with homemade slug bait with a handwritten label stating "Slug Chug".

Ground Boogers. The mushy blob of goo that slimes its way around your garden eating hostas, strawberries and everything in between.  Those hateful little snots can somehow make their way from the garden dirt to the tips of all of your plants without the benefit of arms or legs.

If the Paralympics allowed shell-less terrestrial gastropod molluscs to compete … slugs would win it all.

I don’t have to worry about my slugs on my hostas, my chickens have eaten all of my hostas. But Strawberries?  Yes, I need to worry about my strawberries.

Last year I put straw beneath my strawberries to keep them clean. It worked.  Those slug eaten strawberries filled with ant tunnels and slug snot didn’t have a single speck of dirt on them.  Just slugs.  They had lots of slugs on them

Straw you see is the perfect hiding spot for slugs to bed down in during the day. At night they flip off their straw blanket and worm their way around the fruit salad until it’s time to go to get into their straw bed again.

I hate them.

The other problem is slugs don’t really like strawberries. They, like a lot of pests, take a few bites then skulk away.

Rotting strawberry being eaten by ants.

THAT’S when the opportunistic pests like woodlice and ants move in.

This year I’ve noticed them ravaging the first sprouts of dahlias I have planted around my front garden.  I will not have it. WILL NOT.

I have come SO close to buying lethal slug pellets. It isn’t the inorganic nature of the pellets that stops me from using them, it’s the birds and other animals. You poison a slug, you poison a bird. You also take away a big food source for them if you kill all the slugs.

But at the same time slugs are incredibly destructive.

So …

How to get rid of slugs?

  1. Clean up the garden. Slugs are snails without shells basically so they are always looking for protective spots to hide out under leaves, boards or mulch. 
  2. Attract slug predators. Put a birdbath in your garden to attract birds.  More birds = less slugs.
  3. Diatomaceous earth is always recommended but honestly, it’s not very effective. A ring of it around your plant might slow a slug down but it won’t stop them. It’s also rendered useless when it gets wet.
  4. First Saturday Lime is different than Diatomaceous earth and more effective from what I can tell.
  5. Iron Phosphate (the active ingredient in Sluggo) is said to be safe for use around gardens, pets, birds etc. It disturbs the slug gut and prevents it from eating which kills it within 3-6 days. You should still be careful when using it because although not lethal if a pet were to eat enough of the bait it could make it sick.
  6. Ferric Sodium is a newer organic active ingredient in slug killers like Safers Slug & Snail killer that works similarly to Iron Phosphate but more quickly. Same safety level around wildlife and pets.
  7. DON’T overwater. Slugs love moisture.

How can you DIY slugs away right now? The old wives tale about using a slug beer trap  – actually works. It’s more labour intensive than baits but also safer.

But beer is for drinking, not for catching ground boogers.  So instead of cracking open a $4 Guinness or a slightly cheaper Stella Artois, hell, even a Budweiser … you can make this DIY slug bait instead.

DIY Slug Bait

It’s the yeast in beer that slugs are attracted to, so as long as you can concoct something that replicates that, you’re golden.

This recipe also includes sugar and flour for the yeast to feed on.

Ingredients

2 cups water
2 tsps sugar or honey
2 tsp flour
1 tsp yeast

Instructions

Pouring water from Pyrex measuring cup into clear glass milk bottle.

  1. Add 2 cups of water to a jar or jug.

And yup. This is exactly how stained my fingers and nails are at this time of year.

Pouring sugar into glass milk bottle.

2. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar.

 

Glass milk bottle with teaspoon filled with flour beside it on marble counter.

3. Add 2 teaspoons of flour.

 

Pouring yeast grains from teaspoon into glass milk bottle.

4. Add 1 teaspoon of yeast.  Shake well.

 

Aluminum dish filled with DIY slug bait in strawberry patch.

To control slugs in the garden just put any container into the ground so the lip is at ground level.  Just dig out a bit of a hole in the soil and then pour in the slug chug.  You don’t need to fill the container to the top but make sure that your container and solution are deep enough that they won’t evaporate within a couple of days.

 

"Slug Chug". Milk bottle with slug bait sitting on strawberry patch bed.

Regularly check your containers for slugs and regularly replace your solution.  It’s gonna smell astonishingly gross if you don’t.

One quick tip about keeping your strawberries away from slugs and off of the ground is to run string along your strawberry bed and hook the berries over it when they start to ripen.  This helps make the berry much harder for the slug to get to (and let’s face it they may be agile but slugs are notoriously lazy).  It also keeps the berries clean.

Ripening strawberry kept off the soil by draping it over strings strung across strawberry bed.

Now you can save the beer for your more refined backyard guests. The ones who only roll around in the dirt after they’ve got at least a 6 pack into them.

DIY Slug Bait

5 from 6 votes
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Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsps sugar
  • 2 tsp flour
  • 1 tsp yeast

Instructions

  • Mix all the ingredients together and pour into soil level containers in the garden.

 

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8 Ways to Get Rid of Slugs.

89 Comments

  1. Lisa says:

    I have to say, I was gobsmacked that you somehow didn’t think to include a photo of your gleefully drowned snots. After you showed the rotten-shrimp fly trap full of a bazillion victims… is it not equally disgustingly shareable?
    Can you add one? What is your record in one day?

    ps I have been collecting eggshells for months. Would clam shells work too? I’m on Cape Cod where they are a common (but smelly) driveway material and occasionally used as garden paths.

  2. marc says:

    I spread eggshells around the perimeter of the plants. Slugs won’t crawl across them and they decompose and add calcium to the soil.

    • JoDee Clark Lompa says:

      I’ve been using both broken egg shells and used coffee grounds. Doing pretty well so far. I am going to try the slug chug, as well.

  3. carla says:

    Love your slug chug! Works like a charm. I find many slugs in my tuna cans in the morning. By mid-day, what ever liquid was left in there has dried up in the sun and the slugs have dehydrated. Then something (bird?) comes and makes a meal of them. I don’t even have to clean them out of the cans! Just adopted my first three chicks so I’m hoping the girls will make short work of the slugs when they get big enough and I can ‘train’ (hahahaha) them to work my garden for me.

    • Margaret says:

      Thanks. Carla, was wondering what to do with the slugs once they were in the container, because I couldn’t even think of lifting a Container with slugs in it, they disgust me can’t even look at them, so I hope you are right and the sun will dry them up, and birds eat them, that’s my main worry how to dispose of them

  4. J. Shirey says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I’ve never really had a big issue with slugs until this year, which is odd because we’ve gotten nearly no rain in the last 4-5 weeks, go figure. Thanks to CV-19, we are trying to eat out of our garden as much as possible, more than we ever have, so I really can’t be feeding the slugs like we were… I did not want to take any more of my dear husband’s beers & this recipe is perfect! Thank you!!

    • Bridgett says:

      Love this recipe, thanks for sharing. The last Two nights I have put out beer and had over 30 slugs in my Dixie cups. Your recipe will be much better because I don’t drink beer and I wouldn’t have to go to the store and buy any.

  5. Bob Yeoman says:

    This article attracted me because my local pubs have closed. I control slugs using beer traps, if I go to a pub I ask them for any slops (bring a wide necked sealable container). Some publicans won’t give me slops, quoting “policy”, “health & safety” etc ……all guff.
    These businesses do not make it onto my approved pubs list.

  6. Eileen says:

    I have used yeast/sugar/flour for years. I cut slots in a plastic container , (yogurt, marg, any plastic container), just below the rim on two sides. Pour in 1 ladel of mixture. approx.3/4 of cup, put on lid to keep out rain. I try and hide , cover with leaves,plant pots,anything so crows dont see. I just set at ground level. They climb up and in. Hide a little to try and keep racoons,squirrels off. I may have as many as 100 or more containers out, emptying, cleaning ,refilling, about every two weeks. A few get dumped over, but in large are left alone. I start very early in spring until about June. After that, I do a slug run every A.M. with scissors! Work is worth it.

  7. Marna says:

    Great ideas! I will have to try both for sure. Thanks :)

  8. nancy says:

    What do you do with the “used and old slug chug”?

    I just moved away from Seattle, slug capital of the world. I used Corry’s snail bait, says it’s safe for pets etc. Worked great. Is there something bad I don’t know about? Probably is…

    Did you hear the news about Laura Ingalls Wilder? I guess Mark Twain is next on the chopping block.

    • Karen says:

      News? What news about my beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder? A friend was over at my house today and we spent half the time talking about how we love Laura Ingalls! (I just throw the stinky gross used slug chug along the fence line of my community garden. ~ karen!

      • Beth says:

        She had a book award named after her “The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award” that she was the first to receive and has been given out every year since. The American Library Association has decided to rename the award “The Children’s Literature Legacy Award” because of the way she portrayed Native American’s and blacks.

      • Karen says:

        These people who are renaming the award … they understand when Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote these books, right?? Uch. I’m so liberal I’m almost a libertarian but even I think that’s stupid. ~ karen!

  9. Jody says:

    Slugs=Bastard snot

  10. QueenE says:

    My Mother in law is obsessed with slug bait. So much so that on one family car trip, she insisted that we stop at every hardware store along the route, to check for slug bait because her local hardware store was sold out. We joke that she traveled all the way to PEI to buy slug bait ;)

    ** I honestly don’t know why we had to stop because she has her own recipe(s?) and here they are, just in case your slugs become resistant to your brew.

    My recipe:

    l0 parts water with one part house hold ammonia, drop of dish detergent
    2-1/4 cups water – 1/4 cup household ammonia (dash of dish soap)

    “I put this in a spray bottle. It really helps all season if you spray as they are just coming up in the spring. You can spray the leaves later I’m sure if they are really being a pest.”

  11. Margaret Finch says:

    Great Idea! So love your postings, Karen. Many great ideas I often share with friends.
    Hate slugs but abhor Asian lady bugs on my lilies. The little beggars lay miniscule red dots that (if I don’t catch them) turn into the most disgusting poop-laying slug. Really gross blobs of black slime on my lilies so much so that I’m contemplating pulling them (lilies) all out – I say this every year, but I do so like the blooms. I’ve heard neam oil is good -where to buy & how to use. Does anyone know???? As for dirt under finger nails, you can scrape your nails over a bar of soap before playing in the dirt, then use a small scrub brush when washing up.

    • Madeline says:

      neemtreefarms.com is a company in Florida that grows neem and sells products. Check them out.

    • Jay says:

      Margaret, they are not slugs, but Lilly Beatles (they are red). Laying their eggs and covering them with poop to keep them safe. Even birds wouldn’t eat that. Disgusting mess and they also eat Lilly leaves and blooms.

  12. Rita says:

    Question – would skunks like this little concoction? We have a rather large tribe (or whatever you call a bunch of skunks) in our urban neighborhood. I’ve read about the beer swimming pool, but I’ve been afraid the skunks would think I had put out the welcome wagon with a hosted bar! While we have great neighbors – I’d love to tell them to quit feeding peanuts to the squirrels (and leaving their dog/cat food outside) because I’m sure the skunks think they’ve hit the all-night buffet mother lode when they find it!

  13. Leeuna says:

    I hate those slimy things. Especially when they leave a trail of snot across my back deck…and I step on it…barefoot! Ugh!
    Strawberry cobbler is my favorite thing. I put up every strawberry I can get my hands on for winter. Pffft with the stained nails. It’s all worth it.

  14. jaine kunst says:

    I just remembered a book I use to read to my first graders titled, SLUGS by David Greenberg. It was hilarious! Grinding them up into milkshakes, using them as Halloween costumes, etc. The kids loved that totally gross book. And I loved reading it to them!

  15. jaine kunst says:

    So the slugs are responsible for the ragged, chewed up leaves on my hostas? I’m making your slug chug today.

    Thank you, Karen.

  16. this is a fabulous Idea. I live in the shade and pride myself on my variety of hostas, and especially my miniature hosta collection. Slugs- I cannot stand.
    I will give this homemade recipe a try.

    As for those fingernail shots, I can attest to the success of tight fitting Atlas garden gloves.

  17. Edith Spitz says:

    When I lived up North, I would collect my neighbor’s Christmas trees every year after the holidays. I would strip off the pine needles and use them as mulch in my strawberry patch. The sharp little needles kept the slugs away.

  18. Marilyn says:

    Slugs are my nemesis as well! The most effective way I have found to trap them (of course, I sill have to kill them) is to turn over the rind of a cantaloupe half in my garden. It makes a nice little sweet, moist tent for them. It’s just like a summer camporee that everyone wants to attend!

  19. Doug says:

    Great recipe, and from simple and normally stocked ingredients. Now, what do you do about squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons and bears? Those are my problems, in descending order.
    Thanks for the beer-saving idea.

    • Karen says:

      Ha! Those are a bit tougher. ;) Not even fencing can keep them out. Although I think my “wobbly” fence has finally deterred raccoons. ~ karen!

  20. Grammy says:

    Regarding your hands and nails this time of year: Many years ago I was at a gallery opening at a place where my husband had been meeting with like-minded artists and others. I met and was chatting with the very interesting and beautiful owner. In the middle of conversation she said, “So, what do you grow in your garden?” I had just met her, so I said, “Oh, did he mention that I grow a big garden?” She replied, “No. My mother is a rancher, and your hands remind me of hers.” She actually meant it as a complement, and we’ve been good friends for many years now.

    • Cherie says:

      No nails. That’s my best trick., cut as far down as possible. I use Watson nitrile and cloth gloves — I have many pairs in different colours, the purple ones are the prettiest – and I discovered (actually, I discover it every year; you’s think I could remember from one year to the next) that if my nails are long, they eventually weaken the nitrile at the tips and then I get the dirt. No nails, no dirt. And a good salt scrub does the rest. If really gross, soak your hands — you know when you are relaxing and not “doing stuff”) in a solution of dish detergent and lemon juice. You can use that stuff in the bottles for the lemon juice. Works like a charm and gives you some down time, too. Remember Marge, the manicurist? Can’t recall the dish detergent, though. Palmolive, maybe? As for the slugs: can’t do the beer thing, the man of the house would have my head, so I will try your method. I’ve used egg shells and coffee grounds, too, both are good for the garden, but still on Vancouver Island, the slugs defeat me. I keep old knives tucked into corners of some of my raised beds — that has started many a conversation — that I use with glee when I see one of these slimy buggers. So satisfying to cut one in half! Now to try your method.

  21. Brenna says:

    I’m suprised you have slugs! I figured the chickens would have eradicated all of the slippery little suckers.

    You see, I live in the soggy Seattle area. Home to brown, black, and (my personal favorite) banana slugs. It seemed every year there were more than the year before. Then one day my neighbor let his chickens loose. They came over to my house every afternoon to scratch under the rhodies. After several months I’d worked myself into a tizzy about how those damn chickens were moving all the “mulch” (dead rhodie leaves) all over the lawn and was about to demand they go back in their coop or else end up in the stew pot. I was seriously in the midst of contemplating whether I had it in me to kill a chicken, if my aim was even good enough to kill a chicken, or if it would even be worth it to pluck a chicken, when it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t seen a single slug this year. Not one! I guessed it had something to do with the chickens but…maybe just global warming?

    • Brenna says:

      P. S. I think the best part of the recipe is the name. I ‘almost’ wish I had some slugs left. Maybe I’ll just re-label the beers in my fridge to keep people from drinking them!

    • Karen says:

      Maybe it was just a dry summer? (slugs like wet) My vegetable garden is part of a community garden that’s miles away from my chickens. :) Also, you can’t let chickens roam in vegetable gardens. They don’t just eat the slugs they’ll eat all the vegetables and leaves too. I kill myself laughing every time I see a picturesque Pinterest photo of a vegetable garden with chickens roaming through it, lol. ~ karen!

      • Barb says:

        Apparently what you need is a duck. When I had chickens I had to keep them out of the gardens. But Elliot Coleman swears by ducks as garden pest control- they don’t eat the veggies, he says. I haven’t tried it- ducks are so darned messy.

      • Marilyn Foster says:

        My neighbors have chickens who wouldn’t touch a slug with a ten inch pole. They LOVE snails, but hate the slugs. Go figure…

  22. Benjamin says:

    I wonder if you and your readers will offer up the fail-proof recipe to catch and eliminate an evil, rotten to the core neighbor that no one likes… I’d be in debt to you and promise to not stir up trouble with my Christmas stories about my pink glitter unicorn. You’re a dream Karen. ((hugs))

    • Robert says:

      I think that depends on how confortable you are with “alternative” methods 🙄

    • Jan in Waterdown says:

      Well that all depends on what this evil neighbour does. We need details, stories, gossip . . . whatever ya got! Then we can send our best solutions.

  23. carla says:

    Thank you for the fingernail photo. This is my first year gardening full time and I have been dismayed that I cannot get my fingernails clean. Now I know I’m not alone. Saw this beer substitute recipe previously. Had not tried it yet, but I need to. When I tried the beer trick the first time, I used tuna cans and did not bury them. Caught MANY slugs without having to bury the cans. Thank you for your wisdom. I’m learning alot from your site. Strung up my tomatoes this year and I can honestly say I will never go back to caging them.

    • Ann says:

      4 words: nitrile gloves from costos. 200 count for $10.00. I use them everytime I’m out doing yardwork/gardening and will never go back to bare hands again. Great for prepping raw foods, cleaing bathrooms..you get the picture. I wear size L and they are roomy and even stand up to weeding. Stash extra pair in pockets when go outside-they weight next to nothing.

      • Julie says:

        Like!!

      • Anita from Dallas says:

        I use those gloves too! Gardening, pulling weeds and washing dishes.

      • Karen says:

        I actually do wear “surgical gloves” when I’m in the garden but I’m a fairly hard core gardener and within minutes I usually have holes in them. By the time I notice the holes the damage has been done. :/ I do try to keep my hands and nails half decent! I just never succeed. ~ karen!

      • Laura says:

        Try these: https://www.amazon.ca/9403VS-Premium-Gloves-Vibrant-Violet/dp/B001NEN19E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1530218959&sr=8-1&keywords=Boss+Gloves+9403VS

        1. They’re virtually impenetrable. I trim juniper and pull thistle with these and nothing gets through. 2. They come in size SMALL, which is great is you have small hands (I do). 3. You can use them in the kitchen too (buy a second pair, obviously). I wear them when I use my mandoline. I’ve slipped numerous times and have not once pierced them. You may be able to find them cheaper if you look around. I once found them at a Job Lot for US$ 3 and bought every pair in the store.

      • Rosie Walsh says:

        Dear Karen,

        When a soapy brush will not remove the stains under my nails and around cuticles, I make a quick mix of really warm water, a big of Dawn and a couple tablespoons of bleach in a small bowl. Soak in that for a couple of minutes, use the brush to remove the most stubborn hanger-ons and rinse. The bleach smell probably lingers, but I care not.

      • Karen says:

        I’ve been know to soak my fingers in 100% bleach! ~ karen

      • Christine Hilton says:

        Gloves are for babies.
        I have no slugs just snails. They come out and onto the patio aka the killing field after it rains.l am at 134.The birds are too busy with the tent caterpillars to be much help.
        I tried the beer in tuna cans and got a couple until the raccoons discovered them.They thought it was a bar on the way to the Compost Diner.

    • AmyL says:

      I’ve found that if, before I garden, I remember to liberally apply hand lotion – making sure to also get it up under my nails – my hands and nails are much, much easier to get clean later.

      • Viki says:

        Keep 1/2 lemon in custard cup in fridge push fingernails into it the lemon will bleach nails. Lasts a couple of weeks

  24. TucsonPatty says:

    Okay, so your strawberry crop made it okay this year? You made those strawberry candles, I mean candies, but did you have an abundance of strawberries? They look very clean!

  25. Paula says:

    I really like the string idea!
    Thanks

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