Anyone who gardens knows how pesky snails and slugs are, with their slimy trails and silent evidence of the decimated plants left behind. These sneaky mollusks feed at night, making them difficult to eradicate, at least by handpicking. I know because I’ve been out there at night with my headlamp on plucking the slimy creatures from around my plants. Another option is to use a DIY snail or slug trap. A slug or snail trap DIY is often combined with repellants, baits and handpicking. Keep reading to find out what to use for slugs and how to make your own snail and slug trap.
How Do I Get Rid of Slugs and Snails?
I’ve already mentioned environmentally friendly options to remove slugs and snails from the garden, but there are also chemical controls such as the use of an ammonia/water spray which will dehydrate the mollusks, or metaldehyde.
Metaldehyde is often used in synthetic baits during the fall months. Unfortunately, this chemical is toxic to earthworms, and other beneficial insects. It is fatal to dogs and harmful or even fatal to inquisitive children.
So a better plan is to create your own snail and/or slug trap that is safe for use around children, pets and plants and/or repellants and handpicking.
Handpicking, as I mentioned, is difficult since it not only has to take place at night, but slugs can actually detect vibrations and will drop into the base of the foliage, a tricky area to light up properly. They also will often hide in crevices made by earthworms around the root system of a plant.
How to Reduce Slug and Snail-Hiding Places
Before you try any bait or trap, a better idea would be to try and reduce the number of hiding places snails and slugs seek out. They hide from the sun during the day in a variety of areas. A good garden cleanup can minimize the number of shelter options.
Remove boards, bricks, weeds, plant debris, and weeds from the area the mollusks frequent. Thin out low-growing plants to make them less hospitable. This will increase air flow, creating a drier and warmer area under the plants that the slugs dislike. While you can’t remove all their potential shelter areas, it will help reduce their numbers somewhat.
Try a Slug Trap Board
Slugs hide in sheltered areas during the day, often under bark, wood boards, weeds, plant detritus, stones and other areas with cracks and crevices. If removing some of these hidey holes hasn’t reduced the population, try a slug trap board. The idea of a trap board is to replicate these areas of shelter the slugs flock to during the day.
How Does This DIY Slug Trap Work?
A trap board is a simple DIY slug trap. All you need is some small, flat boards with some type of runner that will keep the board an inch (2.5 cm) or so above the soil surface. Moisten the soil beneath the boards before laying them down to entice the slugs. Place them under the targeted plants and between garden rows - anywhere evidence of slugs can be found.
In the morning, flip the boards over to reveal the slugs clinging to the wood. Scrape them into a bucket of soapy water (or squish them if you have the stomach for it) and voila! The slugs have been removed. You will likely have to repeat this process more than once to get a handle on the slug population.
How to Make a Snail or Slug Trap
A slug trap board certainly isn’t your only line of defense. There are other types of snail or slug DIY traps you can try.
Other types of traps might consist of inverted flower pots or halved grapefruit peels. Anything you can think of that has a wee bit of space for the slimy creatures to crawl under and call home. In the morning, flip the trap over to expose the slugs and dispatch them as you will.
You may have heard of beer baits which may or may not work. Apparently, they work better for slugs than snails. Supposedly it is the yeast that attracts the mollusks. If that is true, try making your own bait using 2 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon sugar, ½ teaspoon baker’s yeast and 2 cups of warm water.
Whether beer-baited or DIY, place the solution in a shallow plastic container that has been partially buried in the soil. Cheers!
Other Types of Slug Traps or Repellants
Diatomaceous earth, sawdust, fine gravel, limestone and ashes can be used around the base of the affected plant or in pathways around beds. These scratchy materials work well as deterrents as they cut into the soft bodies of the mollusks and eventually kill them.
Do keep in mind that this method of slug control is weather-reliant. If it rains (or you water), diatomaceous earth and sawdust are rendered useless as they’ll just melt into the soil.
Copper apparently causes an electric reaction to both slugs and snails which forces them to flee. So fencing with copper screening buried into the soil or nailing copper flashing bent to form a flange from a raised bed may keep the slugs at bay.
Pennies are another idea, but as of 1983, pennies began to be made primarily of zinc. However, if you happen to have an old penny jar around, laying a bunch of pre-1983 pennies around your plants might rid the garden of slugs. Remember, that the use of copper in any trap will not kill the snails. They will just wander away to another area for their dinner.
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.
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