NGA Articles: Snails and Slugs

Snails and Slugs (cont)

By: David George Gordon

Try a Few Traps

Traps can be either store-bought or built at home. One time-honored device is the beer trap: a shallow pan or saucer (a plastic butter tub is a good depth) sunk about halfway into the ground and filled with beer. It lures the slugs with the scent of malt and yeast. Cut a few 1-inch-square doors at the soil level and use the lid to deflect rain, thus preventing dilution. Adding a dash of baker's yeast makes a beer trap more effective. Avoid the impulse to empty the trap each day, as most slugs are attracted by the dead bodies of their own kind, but the beer will lose its potency eventually, so refresh it every two or three days. An equally potent attractant can be concocted from 2 tablespoons of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of brewer's yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar mixed with 2 cups of warm water.

A very simple trap consists of two boards, one on top of the other, separated by a few small stones. In the morning, remove the stones and stomp on the upper board, crushing any slugs or snails that have sought sanctuary there. Other hungry slugs will be attracted by the mashed bodies.

Other effective lures for shade-loving snails and slugs include grapefruit or melon rinds, two-gallon flowerpots or green plastic leaf bags strategically placed on the soil. Check them first thing in the morning, before the inhabitants seek cooler, moister shelters.

A more refined trap, the slug hotel, can be made from an empty plastic soda bottle. Cut the bottle at its shoulder, just before it starts to taper toward the neck. Stick the piece you have just cut off into the bottle, neck first. Tape the two pieces together with duct or electrical tape. Fill the trap half full with beer or apple cider and bury it sideways in your garden, so that the entrance is level with the ground. When your hotel is full, untape the top and empty its contents into the garbage or compost. Refill it with beer or cider and post a vacancy sign.

Snail and Slug Barriers

Perhaps the best barrier is made of solid copper (available at garden centers or sold at hardware stores as copper flashing) in bands at least 3-inches wide. A snail or slug that comes into contact with one of these bands receives a slight electric shock. To increase effectiveness, bend the upper edge of each band to form a flange. Copper is expensive, so it's cost-effective to group snail- or slug-prone plants. Don't fret when your copper bands turn green with age; effectiveness isn't affected.

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