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Purple Power

Pest: Slugs and Snails

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Pest: Slugs and Snails


The best way to combat slugs is to understand their lifecycle. What's that saying, "Know thy enemy!" Slugs themselves contain a high percentage of water and will begin feeding as soon as soil temperatures rise above 40 F (5 C), emerging from the soil or from protected areas. Slugs prefer to forage at night or on cloudy days when temperatures drop and the garden is damp. Watering your garden in the morning allows it to dry out during the day.  Slugs and snails are hermaphrodites (there is no male or female). In other words, all slugs can lay eggs and some of them lay up to 800 eggs a year! In the day time, they hide in crevices in the earth and underneath moss, loose stones, paving stones or planks etc.,  and unfortunately in compost heaps too.


 Their gelatinous eggs, laid in clusters of 40-100, can be found in the soil, under rocks sods of grass, outdoor pots and other protected and moist places.and even outdoor pots. The eggs look like little white pearls. The eggs hatch quite quickly in Summer. Eggs laid in Autumn normally survive the Winter to hatch the next Spring. See below



Image by Mark Robinson


Because slugs are made up of so much water, they are very susceptible to drying out. In the early spring, cultivate your soil to expose their eggs to drying air & predators. Before I plant, I let my hens in even when tilling the soil. They sometimes do get in the way and slow the chore down, but just think all those pests they eat.....ok they do eat earthworm too, so you have to be quick to grab them, have them in a container up high, or the hens will knock it down and have a smorgasbord.  Try to keep your garden as dry as you can without damaging your plants. This can be achieved by using drip irrigation or soaker hoses. If you want to hand pick slug and snails out, the best time to hunt for slugs is 2 hours after sunset so take a flashlight.






Slugs are attracted to chemicals given off by the fermentation process. The most popular bait has been beer. However, not all beers are created equal. In 1987, a study at Colorado State University Entomology Professor Whitney found that Kingsbury Malt, Michelob, and Budweiser attracted slugs far better than other brands.


Never, sink the containers with their rims flush with the soil level or you run the risk of drowning ground beetles, important slug controllers. The rims should be 1" above the soil's surface. Fill it with beer. The slugs are attracted by the beer, fall in and drown. Empty the trap in the morning. You shouldn't use beer traps regularly since they attract slugs from up to 200 yards away, e.g. from the neighbors.


Another way of catching slugs is to create artificial hiding places, e.g. by putting a wooden plank in your vegetable patch. You can then collect the slugs which are hiding under the plank after a day or two. My hens are all lined up circling when they see me getting close to this board. They're hoping I lift it so they can have a quick and easy meal. In Autumn, you can create artificial nests for slugs by digging shallow furrows or crevices in the ground and covering them up with leaves. This makes it easier to find and destroy the eggs. My hens go through these piles on their own.


Baits made from iron phosphate have been found to decrease slug populations without harming birds, small pets or humans. Scientists are still not sure exactly how these elements affect slugs but figure that they inhibit the slug from feeding anymore. The baits are sold commercially under the name Sluggo, Es-car-go, and Safer's Slug & Snail Bait.






I used to use Sluggo, but then I got hens. They love eating slugs and snails, so I stopped using Sluggo. Plus I wasn't sure if it was safe around them if they eat it. Chickens will eat anything even inedible things like plastic window covers I use to help keep my house cool during the summer.  It worked great when I used it and safe around my dog. My dog never ate it. While doing research for this thread, I did come across some articles, where sluggo may have killed dogs, cats, and chickens that ate it. So if you have pets, make sure that can't get to it..... just to be safe. 


Sluggo is an organic compound used to control both slugs and snails. Its active ingredient is iron phosphate, an organic compound that breaks down into fertilizer. Unlike common metaldehyde baits, which are quite toxic to animals, Sluggo can be used around pets and wildlife without adverse effects. It also remains effective even after rainfall or irrigation. Sluggo is also approved for use on fruit or vegetable gardens at all times, right up to harvest. (Metaldehyde products can only be used until fruit begins to form on plants.) Any Sluggo not eaten by slugs or snails biodegrades back into the soil as iron & phosphate fertilizer.

Sluggo is attractive to snails and slugs and lures them from their hiding places. Unlike metaldehyde, dead snails may not be visible since they crawl away to hide and die. Sluggo is slower acting than metaldehyde, but once eaten, the snails and slugs stop feeding die within 3-6 days, so damage to the plants stops immediately.

Use 1 lb. of Sluggo per 1,000 square feet (1 teaspoon per square yard). Re-apply as bait is consumed.



Sluggo Plus



Kills earwigs, cutworms, sowbugs, pillbugs, crickets, ants (including fire, harvester, pharaoh's and carpenter ants), slugs, and snails.


Unique blend of iron phosphate , and Spinosad (a naturally-occurring soil dwelling bacterium)



Trap crops


Certain plants seem to be favored by slugs and can be used to divert slugs from your prized plants. Particularly good trap crops include:



Green lettuce








Comfrey leaves










Certain plants will also repel slugs. Slugs don't like eating aromatic plants and herbs. So it is helpful to plant










Red lettuce


Red cabbage




















Hairy plants such as Borrage and Geraniums which can also be applied to the beds as mulch.


Chicory & Endive seem to be less prone to slug attack.



Plant them around the perimeter of your garden to keep them from infiltrating.


Aside from diverting slugs to where you want them, gardeners can also use certain barriers to keep slugs out of particular spots.


A ring of abrasive material such as:


Eggshells -painful and difficult to cross.


Desiccating surfaces -dehydrate and dry out the slug.




Wood chips/shavings (I'm fond of cedar)





barrier of entangled fur or hair – don’t fit neatly into any single category.


These can be placed around susceptible plants. These materials do have to be kept dry, however, in order to work. After rains, top them up again.


Cutting the tops and bottoms off of plastic containers and using them as a cylinder around young seedlings can construct a more permanent barrier.


One of the most effective barriers, however, seems to be copper tape, as it works wet or dry. When slugs and snails make contact with the copper, there is a toxic reaction, similar to an electric shock, which repels them. The minimum width for the copper barriers needs to be at least two inches; slug barriers sold in nurseries are often smaller and should be doubled or tripled when installed.






Slug Predators


Many natural predators will eat slugs. Providing a habitat for them will help build their populations.


  • Ground beetles - Like to live under wooden boards during the day. and their larvae and centipedes. They eat the slug and the slugs eggs
  • Frogs - They prefer damp sites and a quarter of their diet may comprises slugs.
  • Birds - blackbirds and thrushes, robins, starlings, rooks and crows, jays, ducks, chickens, seagulls and owls will eat slugs.
  • Hedgehogs kill slugs by rolling over them with their spikes
  • Slugs are also eaten by shrews, moles and toads.



Coffee against slugs


Scientist have found out that (liquid) coffee can help to protect your plants against slugs. It should be sprayed on the plants and/or directly on the slugs. It is not yet quite clear how the coffee kills the slugs. Most likely it's the caffeine it contains which works as a nerve poison. It is certainly worth trying. The only problem is that heavy rain can dilute the coffee or wash it away.


Classy, sassy, and a bit of a smart assy

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