Slugs and Snails

How to Get Rid of Slugs and Snails in the Garden


Seeing slug and snail damage in your garden? Here are tips on how to identify, control, and get rid of slugs and snails in the garden.

What Are Slugs and Snails?

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

Slugs and snails are not insects; they are soft-bodied mollusks. Slugs and snails are members of the phylum Mollusca, along with the giant squid, the periwinkle, and the steamer clam. Unlike seagoing mollusks, these landlubbers are equipped with a single lung. The main difference between slugs and snails is that the latter have an obvious shell, which is primarily made up of calcium carbonate.

Slugs and snails are hermaphroditic, with each individual having both male and female reproductive organs. As you would expect, their love life is complex. The common gray garden slug dances an elaborate, hour-long nuptial waltz before mating, while other species perform acrobatic movements while hanging suspended from threads of slime.

Snail on hydrangea flower


Identifying Slugs and Snails

  • Most garden slugs and snails are gray, dull-orange, or dark brown and 1 to 3 inches long. They will hide in dark, damp places during the day.
  • 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 and snail damage but can’t find the culprits, you’re not alone.
  • Slugs and snails 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. It is easiest to see the trails of slime first thing in the morning.
  • You can monitor slug and snail activity in your garden by digging holes that are four inches wide and six inches deep. Cover these holes with a board, and then check for slugs after three days. If you see many of them, these might be the sneaky pests that are eating your plants!
  • Slugs and snails lay their eggs in moist soil or compost. Their populations can grow rapidly in cool and moist conditions.

Slugs lay their small white eggs in damp soil. Photo Credit:

Slug Damage

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. Small seedlings can be consumed entirely.

Slugs can digest tissues from most plants, but you might find them especially liking your beans, lettuce, cabbage, and tomatoes.

The slug damage on this pak choi plant is evidenced by its holes and ragged edges. Photo Credit:

Control and Prevention

How to Get Rid of Slugs and Snails

  • You can create the perfect slug and snail 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 pests into large plastic containers. Cover and place in freezer for three hours. When frozen stiff, dump them on your compost pile.
  • Place shallow dishes of beer around the garden to lure the slugs or snails to a drunken death. Or mix water with molasses, cornmeal, flour, and baking yeast to replace the beer. These are both great baits that can help control your garden slug and snail population.
    • Some slugs and snails are a bit beer-resistant and might crawl out of the dish. If you find this happening, try creating a beer trap that they can’t escape from: Cut the spout end off a plastic beverage bottle just where it reaches the fattest diameter. Now, turn the pour-spout around so that it’s pointing inside the bottle and fasten it with staples or duct tape. Pour a little beer into the bottle (add extra yeast, if desired) and lay it on its side in the garden. 
  • If necessary, get out and handpick the little rascals—a task best undertaken in the evening twilight or in the early light of dawn, before they have sought shelter from the heat of the day.
  • Some gardeners claim that circling plants with powdered materials such as wood ash (which is also a good source of potassium for your plants), diatomaceous earth, coffee grounds, pine needles, coarse sand, or crushed eggshells can prevent slugs and snails. Unforunately, these common household tricks are not proven to be effective.

Photo Credits: Prevent slug damage like this with the above tips for getting rid of slugs.

  • Alcohol kills these pests by acting as a surfactant, or wetting agent, that can penetrate an insect’s waxy coat of armor and kill on contact with the body. Isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) works fine and is easy to find, but be sure it doesn’t have additives. Ethanol (grain alcohol) seems to work best. Alcohol usually comes in 70 percent strength in stores (or 95 percent strength purchased commercially). To make an insecticidal spray, mix equal parts 70 percent alcohol and water (or, if using 95 percent alcohol, mix 1 part alcohol to 1 ½ parts water).
  • A spray of cold coffee can control small slugs, but it must completely drench them to be effective.
  • Some plants have been shown to do well despite being around slugs and snails. If you tend to see these pests 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.
  • Try this old-fashioned advice from The 1963 Old Farmer’s Almanac: A mulch of oak leaves is useful against slugs. To control slugs, our grandparents strewed leaves of lettuce, spinach, cabbage, or slices of raw potato in the garden. The night feeders collected beneath these materials, and the next morning they were gathered and eliminated. Frogs and toads are good consumers of slugs. Old timers, living by their wits, learned to make use of simple materials for insect control. They found that slugs do not like alkaline ground. Slaked lime, wood ashes, slag, sand, and cinders were useful against slugs.

How to Prevent Slugs and Snails

  • It is helpful to rake your garden in early spring in order to clean up some of the moist debris that slugs and snails love, as well as to rake away any soil-borne eggs. Large wood chips also provide hiding areas for slugs, so try not to use them.

Prevent slugs in your garden by getting rid of slug eggs. Photo Credit:

  • Only water your garden when necessary so as to minimize the damp places in which slugs and snails congregate.
  • Slugs and snails have many natural predators. If you have chickens or ducks, they will help by eating these pests and their eggs. Also, be sure to encourage the populations of snakes, turtles, frogs, toads,and ground beetles in your garden. Firefly larvae are also natural predators, so find out how to attract fireflies to your garden. The same goes for songbirds, so check out our tips on creating a bird-friendly habitat
  • Slugs and snails experience a small shock when exposed to copper, which will make them turn back. Try making a perimeter around your plants with copper tape.
  • Companion planting is a great way to prevent pests. In order to keep slugs and snails away from more valuable plants, place plants that they love near your more-valuable plants as a trap, and then destroy the infested plants. Good traps for slugs include chervil, marigold, and thyme.

Check out this video to learn more about how to prevent slugs and snails in your garden. 


Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Slugs and Snales

I follow in my mothers footsteps. Coffee can and pair of clippers. Pick them up carefully with the clippers, hold them over the can then "snip" you are done. Gross, yes, effective, 100%.

How to get rid of slugs and snails

I spent most of my time in Africa where the weather is humid all year round. While there I garden. I grow callergreen, hot pepper, sweet potato ECT .. But, I have problem with SNAILS, those creatures LOVE callergreen
So, i spingle salt on them and they Die RIGHT AWAY...

Slug hunt

I had a severe problem a few years ago...they were destroying all my young bean plants. It finally sunk in that it was likely slugs, so I went out around dusk and checked...sure enough there were numerous slugs coming from the tall grass to my garden. Back inside I grabbed the salt shaker and out I went getting over twenty that night. The next night I took a flashlight and went out just before dusk...after about 30 minutes I had killed over 100 with salt. I kept doing this for about 10 days, every evening. When I finally figured I had cured the slug problem I had killed over 1200. It was a bit of a chore, but that was the end of the slug problem.

slug hunting

Many years ago when my 3 boys were young and built close to the ground, I put a bounty of 1 penny a slug for motivation to encourage them to hunt slugs. Their friends also joined in. I gave each boy a slurpee cup and a spoon and showed them how to find the slugs and scoop them into the cup. I had them count a hundred slugs and I gave them a dollar for the cupful. They were very enthusiastic hunters and I had no slug problem for about 20 years after that.

Slugs and egg shells

I have been using crunched up egg shells around my hostas for years. They add nutrients to the soil and deter the slugs. I also use salt to melt the slugs I find or just step on them if they are small. I’m going to try the vinegar after reading this article.

Slugs and egg shells

I have been using crunched up egg shells around my hostas for years. They add nutrients to the soil and deter the slugs. I also use salt to melt the slugs I find or just step on them if they are small. I’m going to try the vinegar after reading this article.

deterring slugs

I am under the assumption that copper repels slugs and maybe snails.
I wonder if I stapled a #12 copper ground wire around the top of my raised gardens ? Copper is much more expensive this year than last, but am going to try it and let you know.

copper, slugs, and snails

The Editors's picture

Yes, this is correct. Snails and slugs are repelled by the unpleasant reaction between their bodies and the copper.  Wrap a strip of copper (Surefire Slug/Snail Copper Barrier Tape) around the wooden sides of garden beds.

Sluggo and garlic

The slugs in my northern Maine garden are HUGE. I've tried the beer traps, using boards for them to hide under, just about everything but it's been very frustrating. I've never been able to grow lettuce, but interplanting the seedlings in my garlic bed yielded a great crop this year. The garlic apparently repelled the slugs and shaded the lettuce plants from hot summer sun. Sluggo,or Garden Safe Slug and Snail Bait, works good, too. You have to reapply the granules after a rain or every two weeks. Supposedly the active ingredient (iron phosphate) lures the slugs then kills them when they eat it. Safe to use around pets tho I don't allow my dogs in the vegetable garden. Takes a few days to work but does cut down the population quite a bit.


I use household ammonia , mixed with water in a spray bottle which I call my slug gun , I find the slugs,remove them from the plant, and squirt them , very effective, no soap , no oil, and it is not harmful at all to the soil, I used to put the ammonia in a bucket and throw the slugs in, disgusting to clean up but also effective, I avoid spraying on the plant as it may affect the foliage that is sprayed.I also set up hiding spots after a night I check them in the am and take control of any at that point.


I get them in my house ,how are they getting in ? How can I stop them?

slugs in the house

The Editors's picture

Slugs, like most small pests, get into the house through small “holes”—cracks, vents, gaps in windows or doors, or even where pipes enter the home—virtually any sliver of an opening is an invitation. And they can climb and travel upside down once they get there.

You need to clear leaf and other debris from around the house and fill the gaps above. Some sources recommend a sealant in a tube (home supply stores have many choices) and some say slug baits work. You could spread gravel or diatomaceous earth outside; they can not crawl over rough surfaces. Or get a duck or two; they eat slugs.

Killing Slugs

I use Bug-Geta and a lid from a milk jug. Place about 5-6 pellets in lid. Set the lids in your potted plants. Easy to remove when watering or when going to rain. Also place lid close to plants in ground. Check in morning and remove dead slugs. My bag of Bug-Geta has lasted for years because so little is needed. The lid keeps the pellets from getting wet in soil and can easily be removed for watering or when rain threatens.


The slugs I have love phlox they have eaten my lovely plant , going to pot it instead of in garden


How do I get rid of black slugs worms? in the morning when I get up there's are little eggs drop lines from my ferns that are hanging

reply to Abir

Forget the 100% removal of slugs, it will never happen no matter how diligent you are. The best you can hope for is cutting back on their population. They may seem slow but seem to move fast getting at your favourite plants. Just kill them by any means that suits you.

Killing slugs

I have found a pretty fool proof way of keeping the slug population down. I use scissors
and simply cut them in half. At dusk when they are out to destroy everything in sight I go out and am able to kill at least 50 in ten minutes. It's a bit gruesome at first but works fast and they absolutely die die die!

How long did it took you to become slug free?

To those who had a bad case of slug infestation, how long did it took you to become 100% slug free?

Slug Hunting

The flower beds and yard were inundated with all types of slugs. After trying various methods of natural removal, the best method is actually hunting! During ‘high traffic times’, take a fork and a jar half-full of water, some dish detergent and a little vinegar, and have at it! It’s taken 3 gardening seasons, but I am happy to say it has worked! I must have watched the movie Caddyshack one too many times! Cheers!

Giant Slug Invasion

I have huge slugs, about 3-4 inch long. They are brown with strips. These monsters crawl across any leftover dog and cat food which I have to depose of. Climb the side of the house & leave dropping or eggs I don't know which. Salt will kill them, I don't care for this method but it is an ongoing problem. My dogs and cat scratch but don't have fleas. I fear the slugs are crawling on them too. Looking for a method to deter them in a kinder way as I'm sure they are in some way a benefit to the earth.


Be careful with the copper sheeting around your plants. Copper will kill plants too.


I have slugs in my house. How are they getting in? and besides scooping them up and throwing them outside how do I keep them out. I notice them more after it rains a lot.

Slugs in my lawn

I have a major problem with slugs living in my lawn. I have a small, long-haired dog, which comes back inside at night after being outside to do his 'business' and his underbelly and legs are covered in slugs. Removing the slugs and their slime from his coat is a nightmare. Being in the lawn makes it impossible to spread any sort of deterrent such as salt, phenol, etc, and placing cardboard or timber slats simply hasn't worked. Any suggestions?

Sprinkle floor cleaning

Sprinkle floor cleaning phenyl, slugs will curl up and die...


Just sprinkle salt on your slugs and snails and they will curl up and die!


I used to use salt but it took the slugs a long time to die. Found a faster method was white vinegar sprayed or poured on slug. Also keep several wide mouthed jars with lids and one inch of white vinegar (plus a stick beside each jar) around the yard. Great for when you overturn a rock or pail, or old wood, etc and find anything from a fat 2 inch slug to a tiny baby slug snoozing. Whatever the size they stopped moving immediately upon hitting the vinegar. The vinegar even flushes out centipedes if poured on damp rocky areas. Downside to pouring on ground is it also kills worms which I need for my chickens. Whether hunting at dawn and dusk or coming upon them accidentally during daytime, at least I do not worry about the bees or praying mantis that also populate the garden. Happy slug hunting folks! P.S vinegar is great used directly on centipede or mosquito bites.


Affirming white vinegar as slug killer.


Yes beer works to get rid of them but beware if raccoons are in the area they will drink the beer and eat the slugs that drowned in it -experience


How effective can birds be at controlling slugs when the slugs are nocturnal and most birds are not?


The crows actually "find and dig the slugs from the ground like a Robin hunts for worms; Crows are the bet slug eater says Ralph Snodsmith;



Sign up for our email newsletter by entering your email address.

BONUS: You’ll also receive our free Beginner Gardening Guide!

The Almanac Webcam

Chosen for You from The Old Farmer's Store

Sign up for our email newsletter by entering your email address.

BONUS: You’ll also receive our Almanac Companion newsletter!