In this section, you’ll find everything you need to know about beer traps, including how they work and what their advantages and disadvantages are.
You’ll find out why in most cases the use of these traps is a horrible idea and what good alternatives there are for keeping your vulnerable plants safe.
Effects of beer traps on snails
Beer traps are a popular way of killing snails and slugs that invade your garden.
Because slugs and snails of all kinds like beer a lot, they are lured into the traps.
In fact, it is the yeast in the beer that attracts them so much.
That is why these traps lure snails from a large distance, which is actually the opposite of what the gardener is aiming for.
Slugs shall be able to smell beer over ranges of at least 100 yards (90 meters) and maybe even as far as 200 yards (180 meters)!
The classic beer trap is based on the idea that the baited slugs fall into the beer after drinking the intoxicating liquid and then drown in it.
But that’s not always the case. Often they just take a sip and slide away again.
Is alcohol needed for the traps to work properly?
Some people think that it’s sufficient to use malt extract and or sugar to attract the slugs.
Others are convinced that the traps only work because of the toxic effect of the alcohol.
They claim that the alcohol paralyzes the slugs, causing them to fall into the traps and drown.
This leads to the conclusion that stale beer can’t be used, as its alcohol has already evaporated.
However, there is no definite answer to this question yet.
If you have more information regarding this issue, please leave a comment below.
Application of beer traps
In order to attract the snails, small containers filled with beer are placed close to beds and plants which are under threat.
It is possible to use and recycle empty yogurt cups or old cucumber glasses as containers.
These are filled up about half way with beer.
It is also possible to buy special beer traps, which come with a rain cover. This prevents the beer being watered down or overflowing when it rains.
The traps are buried in the ground, preventing them from tipping over. The edge of the trap should always protrude at least 2 inches (5 centimeters) above ground level.
Otherwise, beneficial ground beetles might also fall inside and die.
These insects are natural predators of slugs and snails and are important allies in effectively controlling slugs and snails. (More information here: Resettlement of natural slug predators.)
Beer traps should be checked, emptied and renewed regularly.
Sometimes it is recommended to use beer traps in combination with snail fences (soon).
Once a snail fence is set up, all the slugs and snails within the fenced-off area must be regularly collected and removed.
If the area is large this can be difficult and take a while, because some slugs might also be hiding underground.
Therefore, traps are normally recommended for catching slugs and snails.
However, instead of using beer traps, it is better to use live slug traps.
Products and prices
Different plastic models can be bought, which all look more or less the same. But there are also some special models.
Most beer traps are sold in a set, because it is necessary to put a lot of them in the garden.
Depending on how many traps you want to buy, the price varies from 1-3 dollars/pounds/euros per trap.
As mentioned however, I recommend other methods to catch slugs and snails, since beer traps have few benefits and numerous disadvantages which cause considerable problems.
The main advantage of beer traps is their low cost.
Any household that has spare beer to hand can immediately start to set traps up in the garden.
The effort required is relatively low and traps can even be homemade.
And of course, your neighbors will also be happy, since you are luring the slugs out of their garden into yours!
Beer traps come with two big disadvantages:
Too much attraction
One disadvantage is that slugs and snails will be attracted into the garden by the smell of the beer from far away.
Since not all slugs die in the traps, in the end there might be more pests in the garden than before.
It is believed that only about one-third of the slugs actually fall into the traps and drown in them.
Since slugs are cannibals, they are also attracted by the dead snails in the beer traps.
They kill the enemies of slugs, too!
Unfortunately, natural predators of the slugs also die in the traps.
These include beneficial predators such as the Limax Maximus (Leopard Slug) and the Roman Snail.
Likewise, ground beetles that hunt snails can drown in the traps.
For hedgehogs, the traps are a feast, but if they eat dead slugs saturated with beer, they can poison themselves with alcohol.
After their hangover has cleared, they may lose their appetite for slugs and snails!
Beer traps are clearly not an effective or sustainable solution for preventing slugs and snails invading your garden.
In fact, they can aggravate the situation even more, since many slugs are attracted from far away by the smell of yeast.
This is why a slug problem cannot be prevented with beer traps.
All attractants are a double-edged sword. This also applies to slug pellets / baits (soon).
Therefore, the use of traps and baits is best avoided.
All these methods lead to the inevitable consequence that more slugs and snails are attracted into the garden.
Therefore, you are ultimately shooting yourself in the salad if you try to use slug baits or beer traps to kill slugs and snails. They may just come back in greater numbers.
“The hunter becomes the hunted!”
Further methods to control slugs and snails
slug fences (soon)