Slugs and Their Management

— Written By Deborah Hunter
en Español

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Slugs are simply snails (mollusks) without shells. They live in and on the ground and have big appetites for a wide variety of plants. Young seedling plants are eaten as well as mature

plants. Wet conditions are ideal for slug development. In the spring, slugs lay eggs in moist areas and the new slugs normally reach maturity by fall. Eggs are generally laid on or near the

soil surface in places of concealment, such as underneath mulch, dead leaves, rocks, flower pots, trash, and boards. Preferred spots are relatively cool and moist. As soon as slugs hatch, they are active. They are mainly nocturnal and remain motionless and concealed until nightfall provides suitable conditions for activity.

Control Hints

To control slugs, flat boards, moist cardboard, wet newspaper, etc. are sometimes placed in the problem area for slugs to use a shelter. These slugs are then collected and destroyed.

Protective barrier rings of coal tar, soot, ash, lime and other caustic substances were old suggestions and occasionally are used today.

Since slugs require moist soil in which to lay their eggs and cool, moist, sheltered sites in order to hide during the day, try to open up the garden and landscape to more sun and air

penetration. Since slugs often like wilted or decaying plant material, do not place weed remains or fresh grass clippings in the garden. Place these into a composting area which is

constantly turned for more rapid compost formation. Likewise, remove plant remains and leaves in the fall.

The use of beer, near‑beer or any fermenting food (such as a mixture of sugar, yeast and water) put in cups in the ground will surprise one in the number of slugs that fall into the cups and drown. This method is helpful but still has a lot to be desired. In fact, commercial slug baiting stations can be purchased for the same purpose.

Slug baits are probably the most consistent and efficient method of slug control. Several commercially available baits or pellets are available which contain a molluscicide, a poison which kills snails and slugs. Since these poisons may be toxic to pets, fish and humans, carefully use the products as directed on the labels.