photo of slugs in plastic tray

Beers to You, Slugs!

My cousin posted this awesome photo on his Facebook timeline. He put this homemade slug trap out in his yard, and this is what he found in the morning.

photo of slugs in plastic tray
That’s a lot ‘o slugs. (photo: Cousin Tim)

The tray was filled with beer and set in the yard. Quite a haul!

As summer winds down and the nights get cooler, the slugs are returning with the last wave of growth in the garden. You can almost see these hungry gastropods pulling out their forks and knives to start feasting.

Slug drawing
Ready to feast!

Slugs have 27,000 teeth on their tongues! Well, they are actually radula, an organ with little razors that grind up their food.

Slugs have been a bane to gardeners for as long as there have been gardens. There are scores of home remedies and commercial baits available to control them. Which ones are the best choices?


Hand-picking is always my first choice for pest removal because its free and easy. Slugs, though, are difficult to hand-pick because of the slime and general eww factor. I’ve worn gloves, and ruined gloves, hand-picking them. Latex or plastic gloves are okay, as long as you aren’t allergic to latex (I am), and you can get those slimy slugs off of the gloves.

Then, there is the timing issue.  Slugs tend to feed at night, and I am too tired and unmotivated to get out there with a flashlight and hunt them down after dark.

An Old Board

I once read that you can put an old board in your garden overnight, and the slugs will crawl under it for cover in the morning. Then, you just lift off the board and there they are, ready for the picking.slugs2

95% of slugs are underground, eating decaying plant matter, sprouting seeds, and roots.

I haven’t had much luck with this approach. My slugs seem to prefer hiding under the plants they are eating, not heading to the old board hotel for protection.


Chemical baits are often made from cereal pellets soaked in metaldehyde. It sounds awful, and it is. Sometimes, other animals will eat the pellets and can be poisoned. Not to mention that you are putting chemicals into the ground around your home, where you, and your family, and your pets hang out.


Salt used to be the natural “go to.” But, salt harms the plants growing around the area where you sprinkle it. Don’t believe me? Look at the area of your tree lawn where street salt is regularly pushed by the snowplow in winter. Yup, it’s dead.

Also, you’d have to be on patrol to get the salt onto the little buggers. And then there’s the humane aspect. Do the slugs feel pain as they dissolve? Wouldn’t it be nicer to drown in beer than be dissolved in salt?

drawing of slug
“Gastropod” means foot from the stomach.

Slugs have evolved from snails. The slug’s shell is internal, protecting the slug’s single lung.

I’ll Have A Beer

I’ve read articles that pooh-pooh the beer bait approach. The authors say that the slugs don’t drown and can easily crawl out. How would they react to the picture above? The proof is in the pudding, so to speak.

Why does beer work to attract slugs?

It seems the aroma of fermentation attracts the little slimers. According to what I’ve read, some beers work better than others. My cousin used Labatt’s Blue Light Tangerine. It’s name sounds sweet, so maybe the sugar content and yeast produced an irresistible smell.drawing of slug showing four tentacles

Slugs have four tentacles. The upper two are for seeing light, and the lower are for smelling and feeling.

There are some downsides to the beer baits, though. They will only attract slugs that are within about 3 feet of the dish.  If you have a big area to de-slug, you will need a lot of traps.

When it rains, you face the problem of the bait diluting, unless you can somehow cover the container. WikiHow has a picture of a side-turned jar. It seems that it would be easy to crawl out of, though.

Then, too, there are warnings to keep the trap 1/2 inch above the soil line, so as not to drown beneficial beetles that eat the slugs. What’s a girl to do? My cousin picked a perfect container (it looks like an old microwave tray). It’s black, shallow, and filled with sweet beer.

You need monitor and empty the traps daily. They will get smelly and gross. So, think of this slug baiting as a project, not a one-time deal. Like my teacher always told me, “Persistence pays.”

Who Will Win in the End?

The question becomes, who will be more persistent, me or the slugs? I’ve thrown in the towel before: Japanese beetles, aphids, and sawfly larvae have beaten me. The deer won the war of the roses. Am I sufficiently armed to tackle these slug bugs? I think I’ll let it brew.

How do you slug slugs?

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One comment

  1. Beer traps never worked for me, and I was dissuaded from using slug pellets, because they’re so bad for wildlife, especially hedgehogs evidently. I love delphiniums and so do slugs, so I tried planting them in raised troughs or big pots, which kind of worked. The only effective strategy I ever found really was to put on rubber gloves, pick them and drown them, which is extremely yucky work.

    Liked by 1 person

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