How To Get Rid of Slugs – 14 Methods & Prevention Tips

Slugs are a nuisance that can be hard to eradicate from a garden. One of the reasons they are so hard to get rid of is that they are most active at night when we are sleeping.

Once slugs find a food source, they are likely to stay in an area as long as possible.

How do you get rid of slugs? 

  • Apply a natural slug bait and pesticide.
  • Use food sources and beer traps to bait and destroy.
  • Hand-pick and kill the slugs as you see them.
  • Add parasitic nematodes to the soil.
  • Protect plants by adding copper tape or petroleum jelly to the containers.
  • Use sharp mulch around the base of the plants.

Regardless of which method you choose, the most important thing is to stay diligent and get ahead of the problem.

As soon as you notice slugs or slug damage, you should be actively working to get them out of your garden. 

8 Ways To Get Rid of Slugs

These methods are helpful if you’ve already found slug damage on your plants.

Once you know they are present in your garden, you must use one or multiple methods to eradicate these slow-moving pests or prepare to see significant damage and wasted food.

Bait & Destroy

This method is fairly straightforward. Attract a large number of slugs to a location by baiting with food sources.

Some food options include lettuce or cabbage leaves (a favorite slug treat), fruit, and bait plants. 

It is best to check your bait food in the dark because the slugs are most active overnight. You can then remove the slugs one by one or dispose of the entire pile of food and slugs. 

Apply Natural Slug Pesticide

Slug pesticides work as both bait food and poison. The slugs will die once they eat the pesticide. Sluggo is a recommended pesticide that is effective and safe for pets.

To use the slug pesticide, apply a small amount of the pellets to your garden in the evening. The slugs will eat the pellets overnight and die.

It is advised to only apply a small amount each evening for multiple days because this decreases the number of excess pellets.

Some gardeners have reported birds and small animals eating the pellets when large amounts are applied. 

Hand-Pick Slugs at Night

Slugs are most active at night because they lose moisture in the sunlight. Grab a flashlight, and go on a slug hunt once the sun goes down.

You can drop any slugs you find into a container of soapy water. 

This is a great way to get the kids involved in the garden. A nighttime scavenger hunt for slugs is a fun and effective way to protect the garden.

Use Beer Traps

Slugs are attracted to the smell of beer, making it a great bait option. To set up a beer trap, place a container in the ground with a one-inch rim above the soil.

Fill the container halfway with beer. After the slugs fall into the container, they will not be able to escape. 

To quickly kill the slugs that are caught in the beer trap, add some salt. Salt pulls necessary moisture from the slugs and causes them to die. 

Place Copper Tape Around Plants

Copper creates an electrical reaction with slug slime that results in the slug receiving a small shock. This will not kill the slug but it will cause the slug to turn around.

The copper tape can be applied around pots, raised beds, or greenhouses. 

Add Nematodes to Soil

Nematodes are small organisms that live in the soil naturally. They are also parasites to slugs. You can purchase nematodes online or at a garden center. 

Spread a Layer of Sharp Mulch

Since slugs have soft bodies, they avoid crossing over sharp objects that can easily injure them. Use eggshells, pine needles, or chunky wood mulch around the plants.

You can alternatively just apply the sharp mulch around the exterior of the garden as a protective ring. 

Apply Petroleum Jelly to Planting Containers

This may sound too simple, but it is effective. Lubricants, like petroleum jelly or WD40, prevent the slugs from gripping the pots or bed walls to climb toward plants. 

6 Slug Prevention Tips 

An orange slug climbing up a slender green leaf.

It is going to be a lot easier to keep your garden healthy if you prevent slugs from entering in the first place. Prevention is much more effective than any eradication method.

Clean Up Garden Debris Often

Garden cuttings and decaying plants are prime food sources for slugs. This will attract them to the garden. In addition, this debris is where slugs like to lay their eggs. 

Clean up cuttings and remove dying plants promptly to prevent attracting slugs to your garden. 

Don’t Overwater Your Garden

Slugs are mollusks, but they do not have the protective shell that other species have. Therefore, they are susceptible to water loss. An overwatered garden is a nice, moist environment that slugs love. 

Attract Natural Predators

Some natural predators of slugs include snakes, frogs, beetles, and toads. You can attract them by keeping a healthy ecosystem, having food sources available, and providing protective shelter.

Ground beetles are particularly effective at maintaining the slug population in a garden. They can be attracted to the garden with ground clover.

Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth, Sand, or Wood Ashes Around Plants

These substances are irritating and deadly to the soft body of a slug. By sprinkling one of these around your plants, you create a barrier that slugs will not cross. 

Add Slug-Repelling Plants to Your Garden

There are a few plants that slugs don’t want to eat and will actively avoid. You can plant these repelling plants on the edge of your garden or mixed with other plants to prevent slugs.

Some options include astrantia, wormwood, fennel, anise, rue, and rosemary. 

Check Plants Routinely for Damage

Quickly responding to slug damage or slug sighting will make eradicating the pests much easier. Once a food source is found, it is common for tons of slugs to head to the area.

Know what slug damage looks like, and check your plants frequently.

When checking your plants, look for:

  • Large, ragged holes in the leaves with stems left untouched.
  • Slime left on remaining leaves and stems.
  • Damage at times of the year when most insects are not active.

Related Question:

How To Get Rid of Slugs and Snails With Coffee?

Slugs and snails are repelled by the caffeine in coffee. Therefore, both liquid and grounds can be used for prevention. 

The most effective use of coffee to repel snails and slugs is to brew a strong batch of high-caffeine coffee. Pour this liquid around your garden.

Coffee grounds are irritating to the soft bodies of slugs and snails, so they can be placed around the base of plants to create a physical barrier. 

A word of caution on coffee: not all plants do well when coffee is added to the soil. Coffee is acidic and will lower the pH of the soil.

This is great for plants like blueberries that enjoy acidic soil, but it can kill tomatoes, which prefer alkaline soil. 

Wrapping It Up 

You now have more than enough options for preventing slugs from entering your garden. If you do find signs of slugs, you have also learned multiple methods for killing off the pests.

Remember that prevention and early detection are the most important factors in keeping your garden slug free.