Slugs

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How to Identify and Get Rid of Slugs

Here are tips on how to identify, control, and get rid of slugs in the garden.

What Are Slugs?

Slugs are very damaging garden pests that can be found throughout the country, most likely in moist and humid climates. Your garden is likely to have more slugs during a particularly rainy season. 

Slugs are not insects, rather, they are soft-bodied mollusks. Many people are prompted to ask, "Where do slugs come from?" This is because they are hard to spot in the soil due to their dark color, but also because they only feed at night and hide throughout the day. If you realize you have slug damage but can't find the slugs, you're not alone.

Identifying Slugs

  • Most garden slugs are gray to dark brown and about one-inch long. They will hide in dark, damp places during the day.
  • What do slugs eat? They will feed on almost anything in the garden—look for holes and ragged edges on leaves and stems. The holes should have irregular shapes due to their file-like mouthparts.
  • Slugs will leave a slimy secretion where they have been, so even if you can't spot them, you'll know they are there. Look for slime both on plants and surrounding soil.

Report this bug More information about the Big bug hunt

How to Get Rid of Slugs

  • It is helpful to rake your garden in early spring in order to clean up some of the moist debris that slugs love, as well as to rake away any slug eggs. Large wood chips also provide hiding areas for slugs, so try not to use them.
  • Only water your garden when necessary so as to minimize the damp places in which slugs congregate.
  • You can create the perfect slug trap by laying boards or pieces of cardboard on the bare soil around your plantings. Each morning, turn the boards over and scrape the hiding garden slugs into large plastic containers. Cover and place in freezer. When frozen stiff, dump them on your compost pile.
  • Place shallow dishes of beer around the garden to lure the slugs to a drunken death. Or mix water with molasses, cornmeal, flour, and baking yeast to replace the beer. These are both great slug baits that can help control your garden slug population.
  • Pick them off by hand! 
  • If you need a slug repellent to keep slugs away from tender plants, circle them with wood ashes, diatomaceous earth, copper sheeting, or crushed eggshells.
  • Some plants have been shown to due well despite being around slugs. If you tend to have slugs and are having trouble getting rid of them, try planting astilbe, phlox, or mint to reduce damage.
  • Check out this video about controlling slugs and snails in the garden and this blog with more tips on how to naturally get rid of slugs.

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This page was first published in 2010 and is regularly updated.

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