How to Control Garden Slugs

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Slugs can be found nearly anywhere. Many are beneficial, but those that we notice most often are pests. Slugs damage or destroy plants in home gardens, row crop production and greenhouses. Slug control can be very difficult depending on various factors such as geography and the type of garden. Use the following tips to better understand how to control garden slugs.

  • Slugs require moist habitats to survive. Reduce the amount of moist protected habitats found in and around your garden. Control weeds near garden areas. Dense undisturbed weed areas can create moist protected habitats for slugs. Clean up boards, blocks, material piles and large flat items that can be used for habitat.

  • Reduce the amount of moisture added to your garden and surrounding areas. Use micro-irrigation to focus water into the root zone and decrease excess moisture on plant foliage and other areas.

  • Increase spacing between plants to reduce moisture and humidity trapped under plant foliage. If habitat is unavailable, slugs will seek protection somewhere else.

  • Use plants with thick, tough foliage. Slugs feed by scraping food into their mouths.

  • Although reducing slug habitat can be more effective than chemical control, there are several chemical options. Metaldehyde, iron sulphate and methiocarb formulations are contained in some of the most readily available products that have shown effectiveness against slugs and snails. Use these in combination with copper-based sprays. Copper products may cause slugs to look elsewhere for food such as these other poisons that include bait.

Tips & Warnings

  • Beer traps, diatomaceous earth, egg shells, coffee grounds and commercially available predatory snails are methods that are usually ineffective in the significant control of slugs and snails. Some of these methods may kill or repel some slugs and snails, but they are ineffective in reducing the size of the overall population.
  • These methods provide the same effectiveness against snails. There is very little difference between slugs and snails except for the snail’s shell.
  • Don’t rely on slugs that you see during the day to judge the size of your problem or the effectiveness of your attempted control. Slugs and snails are most active in the early morning hours when the most moisture is on the ground.
  • Chemical controls containing metaldehyde and methiocarb are toxic to a wide range of organisms. Keep children and pets away from these chemicals.
  • Always read product labels before using any chemical products. This information includes toxicity toward non-target organisms including mammals.
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