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copper against slugs and snails

Copper Against Slugs and Snails

Snails and slugs do not like to touch copper.

A chemical reaction happens which causes an unpleasant feeling if they move over this metal.

Therefore, they avoid crawling over copper tape or copper foil.

So far the theory.

However, this method and its effectiveness is controversial.

It has led to many discussions and caused some uncertainty.

Copper against slugs and snails: Offers on Amazon

Does copper really work?

Some gardeners have had good results with copper and in other gardens the snails only seem to laugh about it.

It is claimed that fresh copper would not work. Only after it is oxidized and has formed a patina, would it begin to deter slugs and snails.

Apparently the width of the copper strips also seems to play a decisive role.

Some also say that copper only works when it is damp. Others are convinced of the opposite.

To get to the bottom of all this talk, I designed an experiment and tested fresh and brand new copper tape.

Copper and slugs experiment

For the test I glued self adhesive copper tape on the inside of an old transparent cake cover.

Since the tape was a bit too narrow I glued three lines next to each other to create a two inches (5cm) wide copper stripe.

Then I put in about 30 freshly collected snails and slugs into the thus created copper trap.

What happened within the next 30 minutes I recorded in a time lapse.

The following video shows the result.

The experiment showed that copper works fine with some exceptions. In the end both parties were right. It works and it does not at the same time.

All snails were repelled, but two little slugs made their way over the copper tape.

Also most of the slugs turned around immediately after coming into contact with the copper. But unfortunately there were also these two exceptions.

As the copper used was dry and bought brand new. Therefore, at least the assumption is refuted that copper must be wet or covered with a patina to work.

That is just not true. But maybe it might even work better. (Future tests are planned.)

Furthermore the next funny video shows how important the width of the copper strip is for its effectivity.

A narrow strip, which the snails can stretch over without problems, is not enough.

Only a broad copper obstacle leads to success:

So it becomes clear that copper really works – at least copper tape.

A 100 percent safety can not be offered, but I would say 80-90% of snails and slugs are repelled and this is already a good start.

How is copper used to protect the plants?

This method is particularly suitable to protect flower pots, tubs and other planters, since the self-adhesive tape can easily be glued around them.

Also for raised beds copper can be used as a suitable and cheap snail protection.

Either one can use wide tape (2 inches or 5cm) from the beginning or one sticks several narrower tapes next to each other, as seen in the videos.


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There are also special copper nails to fixate the tape, because the glue might not work on all surfaces. Especially wood might be problematic. Then the copper nails come in handy.

In general, the broader the copper obstacle, the more effective is its protection. The slugs must not have the opportunity to stretch over it.

If you would like to use copper outdoors, you will need a bed enclosure to attach it to.

The surface material is vital for the longevity of this sort of slug-barrier.

As the tape does not stick equally well on all surfaces it could make sense to first attach a double sided outdoor mounting tape, on which the copper tape finds good support.

Then the barrier will become a durable anti-slug guard.

Copper and Electric Anti Slug Fences

Some gardeners also use the conductive copper tape to create an electric snail fence.

Combined with a rechargeable battery, one can use two parallel copper tapes to deter snails.

This is relatively easy to construct but maintenance and service requires a little more effort.

In addition, the snails could be killed by the voltage.

More information about this topic here: electric slug fence

Other copper products

Copper mesh wire

Copper mesh wire used against slugs and snails: Price on Amazon

There are also snail fences made with copper mesh wire, which is offered for a relatively low price.

These type of fences are anchored in the ground with pegs or nailed around raised beds.

Some of them have been exposed as ineffective and others seem to work a little.

I did not yet test them but I plan to do so in the future.

These products are used a lot in the US and they are less expensive than the copper foil tape.

Check the reviews on amazon: here

Copper slug rings and bands

Copper rings are used in the UK but not in the US: Info on Amazon

Anti-slug copper rings placed around individual plants directly on the earth have proven to be an effective method.

These models are used frequently in the UK but rarely in the US and Canada.

They are a bit more expensive than copper mesh or tape.

But the reviews on amazon look promising. More info: here

The rings are a bit more stable then the bands but they can not be opened and therefore are not suitable for big plants. For small young plants they proved to be a solid protection.

The advantage of the bands is that they can be opened and therefore also protect bigger grown up vegetables and flowers.

General notice

With all snail and slug barriers, it is important to take care of “bridges” or “ladders” formed by plants which would allow to bypass the obstacle.

At best, this possibility should be prevented from the beginning: for example by mulching next to the copper barrier.

Disadvantages weaknesses of this slug controlDisadvantages of copper

The main disadvantage of copper is that it is not 100% effective against slugs.

In addition, it is only suitable for beds that have already been framed.

Open areas need to be equipped with stable bed enclosures before copper tape or mesh wire could be used.

Copper can constrain a slug attack, but unfortunately complete safety can not be achieved.

An electric slug fence can hurt the animals and even kill them depending on how much tension is used. It also has some maintenance involved.

Therefore, an electric fence against snails has some disadvantages, compared with an equally effective mechanical slug fence.

But on the other hand it could be constructed as a double edged method, if one of the copper lines is made 2 inches (5cm) wide an electric fence would also work during blackout times.

More information on electric fences here: electric slug fence

advantages strengths of this slug controlAdvantages of copper

Apart from the electric fence variant, this method is completely peaceful and non-violent.

The slimy animals are neither injured nor killed by the copper and just kindly repelled.

There is also no further danger associated with copper and it can be used as an ornament for pots, tubs, beds, etc.

One of the big plus points is the simple attachment of the tape, especially of the self-adhesive variant. Everybody can do it within minutes.

Moreover copper is superior to other methods due to its longevity.

And if it is true that it becomes more effective with a patina, then its effectiveness even improves with age.

plus-minus-conclusionConclusion

Copper can provide good protection for all kinds of pots, tubs and all other planters, but not provide absolute security.

But since the copper is durable and easy to use, I can recommend it.

The price of around € 1 per yard (meter) is decent and comparable to many other anti-slug means.

Thus, if you have a lot of pots or raised beds, you might just try it out.

It will not stop all snails and slugs, but at least it will keep some of them effectively away.

Products and prices

General

The copper products that are effective against snails are a broad tape, mesh wire, copper rings and bands.

For each type there are a number of different products in the trade which are more or less identical.

However, they are sometimes very different in price because costs vary depending on the world market price of copper.

Therefore, a price comparison is necessary.

Price comparison: Amazon product overview. (If you buy there, I will get a mini-commission.)

Copper Tape or Foil

As mentioned earlier the broader the obstacle the better it works.

Narrow tape does not do the job, because as you could see in the videos, the snails always crawled a bit on the tape before they turned back.

If it is too narrow, they could too easily reach to the other side.

Therefore, it is best to use a two inches wide tape (5 to 6cm).

This width is suitable for most pots, planters and raised beds to make them snail-proof.

In addition, copper can be combined with other types of snail control to increase their level of protection.

Bear in mind that the self-adhesive copper foil is very thin and fragile and its adhesive effect can dissolve due to the weather conditions.

Therefore it could be useful to fixate the tape with copper nails or a mounting tape which will make it more durable.

Depending on the design and quality of the tape, the price varies between approx. 0.50 to 2 dollar/pound/euro per yard (per meter).

For an electric fence you do not need the wide tape. A wire or a thin tape would be enough.


Recommendation: Copper Tape

Nomore Slugs – Copper Tape Doff Copper Tape Vitax Copper Tape
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Alternatives to copper against slugs

There are some other slug control methods that might interest you:

Attract Natural Enemies

mechanical slug fences (soon)

Slug Repellent Paint

Snail and Slug Collar

Slug-Resistant Vegetables and Herbs

Slug-Resistant Flowers

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