Slugs 'n Snails: How can I get rid of them?

Do you ever feel like snails and slugs are taking over the world? Well, you're right. There are more and more of them.

slug eating Jelles basil plant

Until now, there's been no way to keep them out of your garden. So, we took matters into our own hands and made a mini-electric fence just for slugs and snails.

The Slug Wars of 2016

At first, I saw it as a kind of game. But in 2016, it became a war. There was a real invasion: the slugs did everything to prove that my anti-slug remedies did not work.

slugs cros s over the spikes and into the planter plots

What other ways have we tried?

I wrote about it before: slugs 'n snails. They're everywhere. What can you do about them, how can you scare them off or lure them in, and what barriers keep them out?

During a huge slug infestation, I wrote this:

Hordes of slugs climbed over the spike barriers without a second thought. My plastic containers with the bottoms cut out, which had worked perfectly until then, no longer posed a threat.

slugs getting into the vegetables at night

Even the arugula, parsley, and radicchio - plants they had previously left alone - were teeming with slimy creatures. Eggshells? Coffee grounds? They just laughed.

The Problem with Slugs 'n Snails

One snail easily produces 600 eggs a year. They don't even need another snail for that because most are hermaphroditic.

The eggs hatch when it is warm and moist. In a 'normal' year, there are 2 generations of snails. But during wet summers there can easily be 3 or 4. That's thousands of snails! And the same goes for slugs.

If you do nothing, you will never harvest a full head of lettuce again. Giving up is not an option.

So, here's what I tried:

Beer Traps

A reader told me that her homemade beer traps worked really well and that her plants had been left alone ever since. She used yogurt cups with lids. She made a few openings about 4 cm from the bottom for the slugs to crawl through. Then she pressed the container into the soil - in an area where she had a lot of slugs - and poured a layer of beer into the cups. Then the thirsty slugs would drown in the beer bath. (I can think of worse ways to go.)

I've never had much faith in beer traps. I think the slugs enjoy it and then crawl out happier and hungrier. Also, I'd rather drink my beer myself. ;-)

Still, I tried it anyway:

slugs in their beer trap drinking away

And yes, every morning, I discovered a bunch of drowned slugs.

A success? Not really, because I found at least as many next to the beer trap, alive and kicking. Well, alive and eating is more like it. The plants around them were all chewed up.


Copper Tape

I also received letters from people who were very enthusiastic about copper tape. So I bought a role made to ward off slugs and snails. I stuck it on one of my planters with a sad, half-eaten pumpkin plant.

After 1 night and 1 rain I saw this:

Slugs climbing over the copper and into the planter boxes

"Wait, Jelle, there could have been a slug in the planter already."

There are plenty of slugs, so I stuck a few large ones against the planter, just below the copper tape. Then I used the half-eaten leaves as bait and waited.

Most snails had already filled their bellies and sat there motionless.

But, these 2 big ones were still hungry. See the slug and the snail? They both set off.

slugs climb over the copper wire like its nothing

Yup, the slug didn't have to think twice. It just slid over the copper like it was no big deal.

slugs climb over the copper wire into the planters and eat up all the leaves

The snail responded differently. It seemed to be a bit more sensitive and turned around.

Bedtime slug hunting

So in 2016, there was nothing else to do but pluck away the slugs by hand. Not the most fun job. And they only come out when it gets dark.

So every night, before she went to bed, my mom would go slug hunting and check our planters. She thought it would be soothing before heading to bed, but dreaming about slugs every night was anything but.

The Chicken Feed Lure

To make things easier for her, we put bowls of chicken feed next to each planter.

The slugs loved it, way more than they liked the beer. They came in droves:

slugs enjoying their chicken feed

It's not pricey either. They sell chicken feed at a pet store down the road € 4 for 5 kilos.

The first nights there were more than 400(!) slugs and snails, then 300, later she scored around 200 each round. Plus about 50 in the beer traps, plus the slugs I came across as the day went on...

It went on like that for weeks. 200+ slugs each time, all coming to the party. My planters became a slug and snail hot spot. So, good for bringing slugs together, not great if you want fewer around.

Nematodes: Just for Slugs

nematodes are parasites that eat slugs from the inside out

Another reader recommended nematodes.

Nematodes are tiny worms - parasites. Their life's mission is to find a slug, get in there, and reproduce.

So, when they find a slug host, the slug stops eating and dies after about five days. Then, the nematodes go in search of other slugs. Yup, that's nature. Hardcore.

Nematodes generally work pretty well but only on slugs. Because slugs hide underground during the day, and that's where nematodes live.

It sounded good, seemed logical and I was ready to take a drastic step. I ordered them right away.

Going nematode is 100% organic and sustainable. It only works on slugs and is totally harmless to plants, animals, and you.

Fast Forward to 2018

I was completely fed up. I couldn't find a single product that always worked with every slug or snail. So I got to thinking...

Together with a design company, we developed a super product that no slug or snail would dare to cross. We started in the winter, tested the prototypes, made some adjustments... and!

We have a snail-and slug-proof electric fence:

It works great. For the first time, I'm harvesting full heads of lettuce. Even the basil is happy.

slug fence successfully keeps out pests

The fence delivers a slight shock to keep invading slugs away. Now in the shop!



PS: Before you say: "Oh, how sad for the snails", you should know we have a very large garden, full of other tasty snacks. They can do their thing anywhere else, just not in my planters. And, because snails and slugs have fewer and fewer natural enemies, the ecosystem is getting pretty messed up. So our area could do with a few less of these critters.