How to Get Rid of Garden Slugs

Slugs are the bane of many gardeners existence; the sneaky little gastropods slither in at night, eating the leaves and fruit from many plants. Rather than letting them take over your beloved garden, take action to eliminate the slugs that are ruining your plants. With a variety of techniques including lures and traps as well as using natural predators to rid you of slugs, you’ll be slug-free in no time. Note that all of these methods work just as well for snails.


[Edit]Setting Traps and Hunting

  1. Use beer or milk traps for important plants. Slugs will only notice these traps from a few feet (about a meter) away, so this is best used for small gardens or important areas.[1] Set these up as follows:
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    • Bury a tall cup with steep sides into the soil. Leave the rim ½ inch (1.25 cm) above the soil, to prevent the trap killing beetles that hunt slugs.[2]
    • Fill the cup halfway with beer or milk.
    • Replace every few days. If the slugs are climbing out, replace with a mix of honey, yeast, and a little water, boiled until gluey.[3][4]
  2. Kill slugs with a cornmeal trap. Cornmeal is cheaper, but may not attract as many slugs. Put a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar and lay it on its side. Keep the cornmeal dry, and it will kill slugs by expanding inside them.
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  3. Lure slugs with humane traps. Slugs will gather in shady, moist areas, such as underneath wooden planks, flower pots, or cardboard boxes. Set these up and check them daily for living snails to gather and discard a long distance from your house. For best results, attract them with one of the following slug foods:[5][6]
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    • Cabbage leaves
    • Citrus fruit rinds, moistened with water
    • Dry pet food
  4. Protect traps from rain and pets. Water will ruin cornmeal and liquid traps. Set up an overhead cover to keep rain out. If you have pets that may eat the bait themselves, use a sturdy cover such as an upside-down flowerpot with a small entrance.
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  5. Go hunting for snails at night. While not the most fun task, hunting individual slugs may be necessary to deal with large infestations. Use a flashlight and disposable gloves, skewering the snails with a stick or dropping them in a bucket of soapy water.[7] If you have one, a headlamp will leave both your hands free, making hunting easier.
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    • Check the undersides of leaves.
    • Follow any slime trails you notice.

[Edit]Deterring Slugs

  1. Keep your garden dry. You won’t see the result immediately, but keeping a dryer garden is the best method for long-term slug control. Here are some tactics for making your garden less friendly to the damp-loving pests:[8]
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    • Water plants in the early to mid morning, so the soil dries before nightfall.
    • Install drip irrigation to minimize water use.
    • Keep the yard free of debris, and mow the lawn regularly.
    • Avoid organic mulches, such as straw or grass clippings.
    • Space plants far enough apart to allow air flow between them.
  2. Create mulch or tea from certain plants. The following plant preparations all deter slugs to some extent, if you can find them in your local gardening store:[9]
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    • Oak leaf mulch or tobacco stem meal, spread as a barrier around plants
    • Wormwood tea, made from steeping artemisia cuttings in warm water for 24 hours. Strain and combine with soapy water, then spray onto soil or slugs.
  3. Make a copper strip barrier. Purchase strips of copper foil wide enough that the slugs can’t bridge it with their bodies. Use them to form a barricade around your plants or planting beds.
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    • Young children may cut themselves on the strips.
  4. Sprinkle salt on non-soil surfaces. Spread salt on the surface where the slugs are crawling around to kill them by drawing out moisture. Be aware that salt can easily kill plants and ruin soil. Use this around the base of potted plants on a porch, or place a barrier on the soil prior to spreading the salt in order to protect the integrity of the soil.
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    • Avoid using salt in situations where it can come into the contact with water (like when rainy weather is likely or a sprinkler is running). Water can dissolve salt and wash it off of “safe” surfaces and into the soil, harming soil quality.
  5. Build folk remedy barriers. Frustrated gardeners have thrown just about any substance in their garden to try to keep slugs away. The following are the best of these homemade solutions, but are unlikely to deter 100% of slugs:
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    • Coffee grounds may have mild effects on the health of your garden.
    • Sharp, coarse sand scrapes against slugs, but may not deter them completely.
    • Seaweed is not as effective as plain salt, but perhaps a little safer for your soil. Calcified seaweed meal is better, if you can find it.
  6. Grow plants that deter slugs. Certain plants keep slugs away because of their taste, texture, or toxins. Plant these in a barrier around the entirety of your garden, or keep one near each other plant. These are not 100% immune, but they will deter many slugs for no effort besides the initial planting. Try the following species:[10]
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    • Herbs: ginger, garlic, chives, mint, and chicory.
    • Vegetables: bitter greens are generally less appealing to slugs than sweet greens. Try planting kale, spring cabbage, or sprouting broccoli.
    • Hosta varieties with blue leaves are more resistant.
    • Flowers for full shade: Astilbe, Dicentra, Digitalis (foxglove), Lobelia, Viola (some pansies and violets). Also Ranunculus (buttercups) and Vinca, but these spread rapidly.
    • Flowers for partial shade: Phlox, Campanula, Hemerocallis. Also Mentha, but this spreads rapidly.
  7. Consider using more powerful (but more hazardous) barriers. There are several materials that can kill slugs on contact. These can be used to make effective barriers to prevent slug movement, but they must be used carefully and kept dry.[11] Improper use can hurt your garden (and even the people or animals who use it). Be sure to apply these materials to non-soil surfaces except where noted:
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    • Safety warnings: Do not inhale any of these substances or handle with bare hands. These may not be suitable in gardens where children or pets play.
    • Diatomaceous earth: May harm beneficial insects.[12]
    • Wood ash: Raises soil pH, which can affect plants.
    • Hydrated lime: Raises soil pH greatly. Can make soil uninhabitable for many plants.
    • 1% Caffeine spray: Applied directly to the plants you want to protect; kills slugs when they feed. Can negatively affect many plants in unpredictable ways.

[Edit]Using Natural Predators

  1. Introduce ground beetles. Ground beetles are a natural predator of slugs. You can purchase ground beetle larvae from a gardening store and distribute them through your garden in early spring. The larvae will feed, enter their pupae, and emerge as adult beetles in the summer.. [13]
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    • Alternatively, you can encourage wild beetles to stay near your plants by providing dry refuges under stones, grass, or straw. This allows the beetles to hide from predators, making your garden an attractive home. Luckily, ground beetles can live almost everywhere that slugs can also live.
  2. Use birds to your advantage. The biggest natural predators for slugs are birds; ducks, chickens, robins, jays, and other common species all enjoy a slug meal. If you’re not too squeamish, you can pick out slugs and toss them to the wild birds in the morning; they will become conditioned to look for slugs in your area over time, and you won’t have to ‘feed’ them for long. You can also let your chickens or ducks, if you have domesticated ones, eat the slugs from your garden on a daily basis.
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    • Keep a close eye on your chickens, as they may eat plants as well.
    • Encourage birds to nest in your garden by providing hedges or dense shrubbery, bird feeders, and a bird bath.[14]
  3. Bring in some toads. Toads love slugs, and will eat them and other pests from your plants if you give them a home in your garden. If you’re trying to attract wild toads, turn a pot or other container upside down against a rock to create a dark hiding place for the toads. Otherwise, you can look into purchasing wild toads to live in your garden and eat the slugs on a daily basis for you. You can also look into adding a small decorative pond for the toads and frogs to reside in.[15]
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    • Do not keep fish in the pond, as these may eat the tadpoles.
  4. Commit to nematodes if necessary. Nematodes are microscopic parasitic worms that live in soil. You can purchase nematode species specifically for killing slugs at your local gardening store. This can be extremely effective, but this is a double-edged sword. Once all the slugs are killed, their predators (and the nematodes) will leave the area or die out. If you do not reapply the nematodes every few weeks, a massive wave of slugs may invade and take over due to the lack of threats.[16]
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    • The nematodes should come with directions. Typically, they are spread over the soil, then watered in.

[Edit]Using Chemical Controls

  1. Spray slugs with ammonia. You can create a slug killing spray by making a solution of ammonia and water. Mix 1 part plain household ammonia with 6 parts water. Pour this into a spray bottle, and spritz it onto the slugs whenever you see them. Just be careful not to use it directly on the plants, as over time it might burn the leaves.
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  2. Use iron phosphate pellets. These small slug-killing pellets can be found in garden centers, for spreading around your yard. The slugs are attracted to them, but once consumed will cause their deaths within a week. This treatment is safe for most pets and edible plants, but it may still be a good idea to minimize use.[17]
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    • Commercial names include Sluggo, Slug Magic, and Escar-Go.
  3. Try metaldehyde. Metaldehyde is a common anti-slug treatment, but it has its limitations.[18] Notably, metaldehyde can be very poisonous to pets (especially dogs).[19] Proper handling and placement of this bait is essential to avoid a dangerous situation for family pets.
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    • Avoid “pellet” form metaldehyde, which can be mistaken for pet treats. Use “granule” form instead.
    • Store the metaldehyde somewhere dogs cannot get to it.
    • Do not apply the treatment near edible plants.
    • Spread the metaldehyde thinly, never in piles, which pets can mistake for food.
    • Metaldehyde works best on warm, dry days, but cannot be used in sunlight. Apply underneath leaves in the evening before a warm weather forecast.
    • Look for low-dose metaldehyde products with less environmental impact.[20]



  • Spray WD40 around bases of patio tubs about 2 or 3 inches up sides. Will last a while even during rainy weather. Apply twice a year.
  • Try baiting the slugs with a dollop of peanut butter surrounded by salt.
  • If hunting slugs by hand, seek them out in early evening, preferably on moist, damp nights or catch them in the early morning.
  • You can also leave a cup of beer in your garden. The yeast in the beer will attract the slugs, and in the morning, there will be some slugs in the cup. Just make sure you bury the cup in the ground.


  • There is some controversy about whether iron phosphate pellets actually contain an ingredient that makes a toxic combination when applied. It has been said that it contains EDTA and that it is listed as an inert ingredient.
  • Slugs are molluscs, not insects, so common insecticides will not work.
  • Many of the slug baits that are advertised as safe do contain toxins that hurt or kill a variety of invertebrates including earthworms.

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