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The fight against slugs and snails is a bitter one and is usually a lost cause.
Methods, including home remedies, that focus on killing slugs only fight the symptoms and do not alleviate the causes.
Such methods are not the sustainable solution desired.
An alternative way is to use means that control slugs indirectly.
They are not only more peaceful, but also more effective than methods that harm them directly.
- 1 Fighting Slugs and Snails in the Garden
- 2 The Bitter Fight is Usually Lost
- 3 The Gardener’s Despair
- 4 How to Kill Slugs and Snails
- 5 Is It Necessary to Kill Slugs and Snails?
- 6 Alternative Methods
- 7 Can Slugs/Snails Suffer?
Fighting Slugs and Snails in the Garden
When slugs and snails are eating seedlings and newly planted vegetables overnight, not only are plants harmed, but the gardener’s heart is also damaged.
After a period of mourning comes anger and with it the desire for compensatory justice.
Plans for revenge are forged and war on slugs is quickly declared.
Fighting seems the only solution.
The Bitter Fight is Usually Lost
In my experience, most slugs and snails have a high level of perseverance.
They usually succeed in thwarting all attempts to get rid of them.
Even if all the slugs in a garden are killed, others will arrive from elsewhere to fill the gap after only a short while.
Oddly enough, they are seemingly even more numerous in gardens where a tough fight against them is waged.
I have not yet heard of any gardener who has managed to eradicate slugs from his garden by force.
The slug population seems resistant to poison and able to withstand every single attack with scissors and spades.
The Gardener’s Despair
At worst, this war leaves gardeners feeling desperate and hopeless.
Some have even stopped cultivating vegetables.
In my opinion, this is a shame, and this is one reason why I have created this project: it is exactly these desperate people that I wish to help to find new ways of slug control.
I aspire to lead them to success by turning their violent fight against slugs into a more cautious campaign to protect their plants.
The methods of destruction presented here are the wrong approach; there are more sophisticated alternatives.
A boom in the slug population is always a sign that the natural order of things is out of kilter.
By killing snails, all you do is fight the symptoms; you leave untouched the underlying causes of the problem.
The natural equilibrium will be even more disturbed because killing slugs also harms their natural enemies.
Nonetheless, below, I briefly present some typical methods used and try to explain why they are doomed to fail.
I go on to present effective alternatives.
How to Kill Slugs and Snails
Scissors and Spades: A Quick, ‘Humane’ Death?
Cutting slugs with a pair of scissors or splitting them with a spade are perhaps the most widespread methods, apart from trampling them to death.
This quick death is considered ‘humane’ and the least painful way for the animals to die.
Not only is respect for life often forgotten, but frequently the dead slugs do not get buried.
The smell of rotting snails and slugs is a powerful attractant for all conspecifics in the neighborhood.
With this method, if slugs and snails are not buried properly, even more can find their way into the garden.
I am firmly against this and think there are much smarter ways to protect plants.
But if killing is the method of choice, at least you should give the slugs a dignified burial.
Slug Baits/Pellets: A Slow, Painful Death
There are various slug and snail poisons called molluscicides.
Typical are pellets that contain metaldehyde or iron phosphate to kill the slugs.
All other pesticides have been banned because using them kills beneficial earthworms and other animals.
The poison could also be dangerous for humans and pets, and for other beneficial animals in the garden.
Using poison makes it impossible for nature to heal and for natural balances to form.
Slug Collars | Alternative Snail & Slug Control for single plants | Multipack
Metaldehyde is toxic to children and pets (dogs, especially, like to eat the pellets), so must be handled with great care.
The pellets should not be touched with bare hands.
Slugs and snails are attracted by substances on the blue bait.
After eating the metaldehyde, they try to flush the poison out of their body, thereby losing body fluid and drying out painfully from the inside.
This usually takes many hours and if it rains they might even survive this fight.
Slugs will typically die close to the spot in which they came into contact with the pellets.
After dying, they have to be collected, as otherwise their smell will attract more slugs from all around.
Peaceful Slug Control & Plant Protection
|Slug Repellent Copper Tape||Plant Protection Cover | Set|
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Iron(III) phosphate works differently.
After the slugs have eaten the bait, their digestive system becomes blocked, they can no longer eat, and they starve slowly. This can take several days.
During this time, they stop eating but can still reproduce.
The slugs retreat to a sheltered place, where they die unseen.
Their dead bodies then attract new slugs and snails into the garden.
Products with iron(III) phosphate are approved for organic farming, but their effect on beneficial earthworms can still be dangerous.
Apart from that, the slow death, the possible reproduction and the attractant effect of the dead slugs make this method highly questionable.
Slug pellet manufacturers are pleased because this is not a sustainable solution at all.
The pellets work for a short period only and have to be applied again and again – year after year.
This costs a lot of money and might lead to further despair.
I therefore recommend staying as far away as possible from slug pellets!
You might even discuss their harmful effects and better alternatives with your neighbors.
You will find more information here: Slug baits and pellets.
Salt: A Cruel Death
If you sprinkle slugs and snails with salt, it will bind their body fluids and their bodies will dissolve slowly.
This is perhaps the most unpleasant way to kill them.
Nevertheless, many gardeners still use salt in their gardens.
They either sprinkle it on all the slugs that they find in their beds or they use it to kill the slugs they have collected.
This method shows little compassion, and the slugs must experience significant suffering. I cannot understand this approach.
Some gardeners use salt to create barriers for slugs and snails, which is even worse.
In most areas, applying salt in the garden is forbidden because not only does it ruin the soil and damage the slugs, but it also kills all living beings that come into contact with it, even plants.
You will find more information here: Salt against slugs and snails
Boiling Water: A Hot Death
An equally cruel method is to pour hot or boiling water over the collected slugs.
Supposedly, this is another ‘humane’ way of killing them, but hot water is an excruciating death for slugs.
Freezing: A Cold Death
Putting slugs and snails into a plastic bag and then into the freezer is also described as an ‘animal-friendly’ killing method.
It is believed that slugs and snails will slowly die in the freezer bags, just like they do in winter from harsh frosts.
I doubt, though, that this is a pleasant death.
Beer Traps: Death by Drowning
Laying beer traps is still a widespread method for controlling slugs. However, word has spread that in the end, beer attracts even more snails and slugs from far away.
In theory, this method seems to work just fine. The traps are quick and easy to set up.
The slugs come out at night, drink the beer, and some of them fall into the fluid and drown.
So, this is presented as a painless way to kill slugs and is embellished as a ‘wonderful’ way to die drunk and happy.
In the end, however, only a few slugs fall for the beer, but many more are lured into the garden.
You will find more information here: Beer traps
Parasites: Death from Within
Roundworms – also called nematodes – are parasites that infest snails and slugs and feed on them until they die from bacteria produced by the worms.
Nematodes live underground and are sensitive to light and dry conditions. Therefore, they only infest slugs and snails that live inside the soil.
So, nematodes can be used against field slugs, which sometimes live underground.
However, they cannot be used against slugs and snails that only live on top of the soil, such as Spanish slugs.
Being eaten from the inside is awful to imagine.
This method is not sustainable because once the slugs are gone, the nematodes also die or leave the garden.
In addition, nematodes are expensive and there are cheaper ways to deal with slugs and snails.
You will find more information here: Nematodes against slugs and snails
Being Eaten: A Natural Death
This is the only method of killing slugs and snails that I recommend as useful and applicable to any garden.
Attracting natural predators into the garden is a sustainable and environmentally friendly measure that leads to long-term success.
Apart from natural enemies, there are, for example, domestic animals that eat slugs, such as chickens or runner ducks.
These animals feed on slugs and snails and look for their eggs.
Chickens, turkeys, and ducks are usually quite interested in this kind of protein snack.
Of particular importance is the insect world because many insects eat snails. Not many people know this, or they have forgotten.
The slow and almost defenseless slugs are eaten by all kinds of predatory insects, such as ground beetles, marsh flies or harvestmen.
The sharp decline in the insect population might explain why slug booms are becoming more and more common.
More info here: these insects eat snails & slugs.
So, it is important to help as many insects as possible to settle in your garden.
Other natural enemies of slugs and snails are:
This is why it is useful to lure as many animals as possible back into the garden.
If you increase the biodiversity in your garden, you can prevent all kinds of garden pests.
In addition, you can help leopard slugs (Limax maximus) to settle in the garden.
These are predatory slugs that also kill other slugs and snails; for example, the Spanish slug.
You will find more information here:
|Helping hedgehogs settle in your garden||Attracting birds to your backyard|
Is It Necessary to Kill Slugs and Snails?
In my opinion, it is not necessary to kill slugs and snails using any of the methods described above.
There are much wiser ways to deal with the pests.
You do not need to fight them directly.
It is enough to ward them off passively; for example, with barriers against slugs and snails.
Snail and Slug Stops
Common Obstacles Are:
|Slug fence test||Slug and snail collars|
|Plant covers and garden cloches||Copper tape against slugs and snails|
|Slug deterring paint/coating||Electric slug fences|
Slug & Snail Fence | Protective Barrier
Click on the image leads to an offer on Amazon.
Choose Resistant Plant Varieties
One intelligent way is to select flowers and vegetables in which slugs and snails show little or no interest.
Some vegetables that you do not want to miss are on the list of favorite foods for slugs and snails.
However, there are also many flowers, vegetables, and herbs that they dislike eating.
You will find more information here:
|Slug-resistant flowers: perennials and annuals||Slug-resistant vegetables and herbs|
Flowers as protection against snails & slugs
Click on the image leads to an offer on Amazon.
Plant a Sacrificial Bed
You can create a sacrificial bed to distract slugs and snails from the plants you want to save.
This could, for example, be a dedicated bed on the edge of your garden with all the flowers and vegetables that slugs like a lot:
Their greed is best met with generosity. They can then be found in these beds and collected easily.
Although this may be difficult in small gardens, it could contribute to successful slug control overall.
You will find more information here:
Collect and Relocate
The method that helps immediately is to collect and relocate the pests.
It is best to use snail and slug traps in which they are caught alive.
The world is big enough for snails, slugs, and humans.
There are many places in the environment where they will not disturb anyone. Nature does not recognize discrimination.
However, it is reasonable to be concerned about local ecosystems being disrupted when slugs are relocated.
So, you should only put them in spots where they already exist and in places with high biodiversity.
That way, there is no danger of spreading them all around and nature will take care of them.
It is not enough, however, to throw the collected slugs just over your garden fence.
They can travel up to 25 yards (ca. 23 m) per day. This is why they might come back if they are not put far away.
I recommend putting them at least one mile (1,500 m) or, even better, a couple of miles (kilometers) away.
Can Slugs/Snails Suffer?
When thinking about killing slugs, one question inevitably arises: To what extent do they suffer?
Slugs and snails should be treated with dignity and respect, but this is too often ignored.
It is easy to put yourself in the position of other mammals and realize that they can and do suffer.
They scream and squeal when in pain and can even whine, just like humans do.
Slugs and snails do not make comparable sounds. They seem to endure everything quietly.
This makes it harder to recognize their pain and to treat them with compassion.
However, if you observe slugs more closely, you soon realize that they can experience suffering.
For example, the video about electric slug fences shows how sensitive they are to pain.
Video: Electric Slug Fence
Many gardeners, therefore, try to kill them in a ‘humane’ way that makes them suffer as little as possible (scissors or freezer).
Unfortunately, some gardeners are unwilling to give up killing entirely, unaware that there are other, better, options.
My wish is that in the long term there will be a rethink; I have already observed the first signs of this.
Perhaps there will come a time when even mollusks will be granted personal dignity and the right to live.
Peaceful Slug Control & Plant Protection
|Slug Repellent Copper Tape||Plant Protection Cover | Set|
|Offer on Amazon||Offer on Amazon|
|Offers on eBay||Offers on eBay|
|Sheep Wool Pellets||Slug Collars | Set|
|Offer on Amazon||Offer on Amazon|
|Offers on eBay||Offers on eBay|
Mindful consumption: Please only buy what you or your garden really need.
Last update: February 12, 2023
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56 thoughts on “Killing Slugs & Snails: the “Humane” Way? Common Mistakes and Effective Alternatives”
so happy to have
found this site but, unfortunately found it after trapping 51 big slugs with beer. I would rather be more humane. Those fifty-one slugs were captured last night. Many of them had white globs of flesh outside their bodies. Are these lungs? which were pushed through the body by drowning?
Hello Joan Good,
thank you very much for your comment!
Unfortunately, I cannot answer your question.
Maybe someone else who reads this could help.
Here you find more information about slug traps without beer.
Good luck with humane slug control!
It might be braconid wasps. Adults lay eggs on or in soft-bodied caterpillars including cabbage worms, tomato hornworms, and other garden pests. The eggs look similar to rice on the back of a caterpillar. Maybe they are a natural predators to slugs to!?
Thank you so much for this!!! I’m terrified of slugs. I know: ridiculous….especially since I live in the North American Pacific coastal rainforest area. Giant slugs of all kinds are hugely abundant, and serve some vital ecological niche, I’m sure. But, fear is fear. I hate harming them or causing them any sort of pain, however. I just want them relocated to out of my sight. This usually means enlisting a friend, but then I have to do the whole, “can you *please* move that slug from the deck, but also gently? Please don’t hurt it or kill it? Just put it in that cool, shady forested spot over there, maybe?”
Any information about slugs that I search for online only yields “how to kill slugs,” there’s never any factual information on how these methods actually feel for the slug. If you’ve ever seen a slug get salted, you can clearly see how painful it is; as with most insects, fish, etc: just because they don’t scream doesn’t mean they don’t feel pain.
I feel we humans have gone way too far in our theory that we are “the most important species” and have “dominion over all”. We’ve proven to be terrible stewards of the Earth, if it was ever ours to begin with. I find myself sincerely hoping for a 7th mass extinction event, even though I certainly would not survive, and neither would my loved ones. I’m thinking a fresh start is the way to go. If a way could be found by mother nature that would only clear out humans, or extremely reduce our numbers, all the better. I’m not suggesting anything rash, or that we take matters into our own hands; we’d surely bungle that like we have everything else. I think either nature will take care of the problem, or we’ll hit the hypothetical cosmic “great wall” that, no doubt, countless civilizations before us have reached, both on Earth and in the Uni/Multiverse at large.
In summary: slugs squick me out in the extreme, but I love your suggestions for non-painful/violent/harmful methods of relocation and co-existence.
I agree with everything you say apart from the ‘I find myself sincerely hoping for a 7th mass extinction event’. You don’t like killing slugs, but you are okay with you and your ‘loved ones’ dying?
While you make some valid points. I think what you say about wanting the ‘7th mass extinction event, even though I certainly would not survive, and neither would my loved ones’ to occur is simply too absurd to not comment on. You are saying that you cringe at a slug dying (fair enough) but then are okay with you and your loved ones being wiped out?
I agree with absolutely everything that you say. Humanity is not deserving of animals, we have abused them for as far back as memory serves. We continue to do so with impunity and I am embarrassed to call myself a human being, often. We have no right to use animals or abuse them in any way, and no righteous god will be OK with what we are doing to animals. A god who does condone cruelty to animals, (like factory farming them to eat their flesh) is not a god, or god-like. Find another god by all means.
Thank you so so much for this… I killed previous ones with salt and will never do this again or the other methods listed as in humane and painful
I feel ashamed now… thank you very much for taking the time and trouble 🙏
Thankfully I found this article before I went out to do a slug cull in my garden tonight.
I even laid out food and water to encourage wildlife. Hopefully enough people will come across this site and sites like this to open their eyes and hearts . I’m off shopping tomorrow for hedgehog homes and food to encourage them too. Let nature take back some control before it’s too late.
I had an argument with someone stating that wasps are a waste of time and that they should all be wiped out . This narrow sightedness must come to an end, hopefully with sites like this educating people.
Well I guess I won’t be having a slug killing Fest tonight. Thank you for your article. Very helpful
This is a very informational and detailed article, includes a lot of references and helpful tips, as well as explanation of both sides of the problem. I am bookmarking it to keep as inspiration, even though I almost cried when I read about the killing methods 🙁
I was actually inspired to search the topic when I saw a squished snail on the sidewalk – it was still moving and trying to get up, which was painful for me to see. So I thought about ending its suffering. But all the methods described above sound even more excruciating. It might be that such thing as “humane” killing doesn’t exist, despite our best intentions. Maybe truly the quickest way would be the scissors in this scenario.
I found your article totally enlightening. If only the murderers in the world would just think of the poor slugs. After reading your article the first time I was up all night, too upset to sleep. O was wondering if you could help me. Please write a similar article with the most humane way to kill the common housefly. Thank you.
I find the people commenting like this sad. If things like this keep you awake at night, how long does the prostitute trade, or the COVID situation is India keep you awake for?
I actually googled “How to save a drowned slug”. There was one in the bottom of my pond filter sump.
This has happened before and they just crawl up the side but this time it took longer to drain away and i could see it trying to stretch up above the water level.
I tried to get it out with a pole and hoped he would get on the pole but no. Next i tried a triangular net but it was too big.
Eventually i got him in a round net and put him on the garden. He has moved but not much. I have put some sugarsnaps out for him but i think he is going to die.
I dislike slugs but i don’t want to hurt them.
People disgust me how they treat slugs. Similarly rats. I understand why rats need to be killed but do it as quickly and painlessly/stresslessly as possible. Some people delight in making them suffer. It’s not their fault they are rats. We are supposed to be better than animals but we’re not. I’ve never seen a cruel animal. Yes, they kill each other but they don’t do it for enjoyment.
I hope the slug is ok
Use peppermint oil in water and spray in the room where the flies are they don’t like the smell or buy one of those mist diffusers and put peppermint essential oil in it and that will keep a lot of insects and flies and spiders away and it wont harm them.
You’re joking right?
Thank you for writing this useful article. I am all for humane approach to the slug problem. We have slugs in the kitchen, they come at night and disappear in the morning. We tried filling the holes that we think they come from and I have put salt around the holes hoping that the slug would decided to turn the other way. I have discovered slug trails that go over the salt. Is there anything that the slugs don’t like that I can put around the holes to stop them from coming in? At this point we would consider hiring a chicken or a hedgehog but our dog doesn’t like the idea. I wouldn’t mind the slugs but recently they came into our cupboard and made a whole in the paper porridge bag. I am not even sure that they enjoyed the uncooked porridge.
thank you for your comment. You could try copper tape or maybe slug deterrent paint.
You people are all NUTS! HAVE YOU EVER KILLED A SLUG AND SEEN HOW LONG OT TAKES MANY OF HIS/HER BUDDIES TO MOUNT (it) and devour him/her? They serve no purpose. And no…snails don’t scream. I scream when the eat my plants!!!!!
I understand your hurt and your anger. They seem to be mean.
Anyway, are you sure that they serve no purpose?
May you anyhow find joy in your garden!
LOL! I hate hate hate killing living creatures but after years of not seeing my beautiful clematis blooming due to greedy slugs and snails, I’ve given in and now every night I go out on a killing spree. I don’t like it~ in fact I hate it ~ but they’ve pushed me to it. I didn’t mind sharing my garden with them but they took it too far and enough is enough.
You are one of those cruel and selfish people who only think of themselves. May karma teach you humility soon. And it will. You are not that important. Just like a snail, you are a speck in eternity. Learn some compassion for other creatures.
Thank you! I am an animal lover, I even rescue pets and then help find them a forever home. I place food and water on my front porch for 2 cats right now. I know who they belong to and the owners aren’t caring for them or feeding them in the manner they should be…anyway we have bushes around our front porch and oh my goodness, I thought there was a snake in the food/ water dish and I got my husband, thank goodness I turned my flashlight on my cell to see… and he took care of it, said it was a slug…I said I’ve NEVER seen a slug that big or look like this… I normally try to always place even a spider if it’s outside somewhere so it can live yes..if the spider is in my house…I do not like them I do not like them nooooo and I skiwsh them with anything I can find… well, these huge butted slugs need to go…my husband is very familiar with animals ect….he said they will search for food…the one was huge and there were smaller ones…mind you the food water dish was up on my porch…up 5 steps….around the corner from where we even have bushes…CAN YOU SAY ATTACK OF THE KILLER SLUGS!!! Sorry NOT SORRY, I know salt does kill slugs, always have know….I saw this article because I looked up about slugs and then was curious if there was even a better way to get rid of them any way I could and NO, absolutely not would I place them somewhere else to harm someone else’s pet and damage stuff and I’m sorry FREEAK SOMEONE ELSE OUT! AND yep I’m still putting Salt all around the ground where they are in front of our house, well my husband will do it for me and he feels the same way…and even after I read this….read what they do to my pets cats I’m rescuing and what about out dog? Yes we are always with her as we NEVER tie her out…by the way she’s a pittbull, lab boxer mix 3 yrs old had her since she was a puppy….hmmmmm how do you all feel about that breed of dog??? Cuz she gentle, loving and kind, doesn’t even bark at other dogs when we are outside taking her to the bathroom, walks ect…. she’s smart, knows a gazillion tricks(exaggeration) has manners, has toys that you’d think only a poodle would be able to have… my 3 yr old granddaughter has grow up with her and she loves anyone, kids included…knows when she needs to protect….. so yeah….
So I don’t feel guilty or bad in anyway ..they are a danger to my pets…I won’t place salt anywhere but where it needs to be placed. My opinion… my decision…my life…my pets . I won’t lose sleep over it….the thought of that snake slug invading my house now that made me lose sleep.
Exactly I had lupins last year you could hear slugs munching sorry had to get rid slugs now copper tape or strulch goes in plant pot good for plants too I hate slugs n snails n spiders euck
Interesting article. You refer to a large slug population in a garden as meaning the natural order is “out of kilter”. What could be the cause of that?
I have a roof terrace which is covered in slugs at night. I’m growing strawberries and they keep being devoured.
thank you for your comment. This sounds strange. Maybe you brought them there somehow – hidden in soil or plants?
There are different methods you could try to safe your strawberries.
Maybe you could use coppertape? More infos here: copper against slugs.
Apart from that you could have a look here: natural slug control.
May you and your plants be healthy and safe,
Thanks for your article! very helpful insight and you’ve given me renewed vigour to try to go with nature and grow what the slugs don’t like. However, your advise does primarily seem to deal with slugs that are above ground, do you have any advise other than nematodes for the slugs that live in the soil – they are the ones i have the most problems with.
I recently wanted to stop slugs coming onto my driveway. I simply surrounded the area with stones with rough surfaces (I’m not sure the type of stones – they were like little grey chips of stone). The slugs don’t like to climb over them so my driveway became slug free.
And Covid happened.
Hey Rocky, I learned a really useful trick with houseflies that mean you don’t need to kill them either… They cannot see you if you move super slowly, so it’s possible to capture them under a glass (when they are landed!), then slide paper in and release them outdoors. Try it – it’s amazingly effective!
Thank you for creating this site. It has been a long-held worry for me and I torture myself each year wondering what to do. I am not a killer, and the one time I did, I wept! I have been working on creating as much biodiversity in my garden as possible (I’m a permaculturist), including a large pond, but I know the system will take time to establish.
It’s such a relief that there are people out there that also care – I will share this site far and wide!
Alex, I’m in Mississippi: Why are the slugs getting on my camper? Every night, lots of them.
Do they eat any vegetation? If I put salt down as a barrier would they know not to cross? Or would they commit subside?
I’m going to try putting lava rocks in my flower bed, in hopes that the slugs will be deterred.
thank you for your comment. Just a while ago I tried lava rock. But the results were not convincing.
Have a look here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lhOzt7FFxo.
Instead I would recommend to use sheep wool or sheep wool pellets.
May you have many wonderful moments in your garden,
Thank you so much for this. I’m not what you call a gardener so I asked a friend for advice. I was told to put salt on slugs/snails as they were eating my new plants. After I saw the affects on the snails I felt so bad and I will never, ever do that again. Can you recommend the coffee solution? will it deter them rather than kill them painfully?
Ok. I feel so guilty. I just held a salty slug genocide in my old wheelbarrow. I normally don’t kill anything. I save spiders and flies etc. but these guys TARGETED my freshly transplanted orchids. I’ve been checking the pots every day but they were so clever at hiding. So I kinda lost it. But now I feel sort of sad. Is the beer thing more humane ? At least do they enjoy it?!
I read about using seaweed to deter slugs. I believe that it has to do with when it is dried, it is somewhat like eggshells – sharp.
Sheep’s wool pellets do not work… I tried in vain to save pots of [expensive] tuberose with [expensive] sheep’s wool pellets.. I ended up out of pocket, and only one bulb got as far as flowering out of 10! There wasn’t even a gap in the wool mat in the end, so no deterrent. I still have the other bag unopened because of that experience.
I want to be more empathetic towards slugs, but unlike other places, slugs here aren’t just a pest. They are a threat, being carriers of rat-lung disease.
I live in Hawaii, where invasive species have done a number of negatives, invasive slugs being one of them. The problem with the wildlife solution is that most predators here are either difficult to attract at the right time, or pose an entirely different threat. The slugs in our neighborhood are nocturnal, so birds are likely out of the question. The only other options are beetles and toads. I don’t mind beetles, but I don’t know which ones exactly eat slugs. We have cane toads but those are highly toxic to pets, and we have a dog at home.
Any idea on a humane but effective way of getting rid of slugs for places with little to no natural slug predators?
Sam, I came to this site from Hawaii as well. I’m hoping someone can help us both. I already plant 3x as many starts as I actually want, because I know that slugs and snails will devour most starts. I have found that cutting the top and bottom off of aluminum cans and sliding them over my start (like a circular fence) works fairly well. With such a wet climate, Rat Lung Worm Disease, and very few ecologically safe alternatives I have resorted to going out at night, picking them off my plants, and drowning them. I’d love a better way. I feel awful every time.
thank you Alex for this very informative article (I like the humour in it too). I’m afraid although I can’t stand any suffering in animals I have been guilty of using slug pellets for many years! I always thought using salt was a horrible way of killing them but why I thought pellets was any better I can only say I showed a blind eye to it. Recently I have sometimes picked them up from my backyard garden where I have my flowering annual plants and thrown them into the front garden plot across the road or over the back wall. I will stop with the pellets and try to collect them and place them across the road. I suppose throwing them is really not very respectful either and would cause them harm.
Thank you for this article. My problem is that they come from underground. I live in the city, concrete everywhere so no predators are here to eat them. My “garden” is also in the middle of the concrete backyard. The slugs comes from underneath. Any idea how to get rid of them?
Hello Anita, thank you for your question!
My first idea would be to use primarily slug resistant vegetables and herbs.
Also, I would set up a sacrificial bed combined with live traps and relocate the slugs.
More info here: plants slugs love to eat.
How to set up live traps for slugs and snails?
Further, you could set up anti-slug-barriers to protect vulnerable plants.
I hope this will help you to protect and enjoy your garden 🙂
I spray them with ammonia, about 1/5 ammonia to 4/5 water works well. I am sure it hurts them initially, but they seem to die pretty fast and ammonia turns into nitrogen in the soil. I try to dispose of them as much as possible. I got no lettuces last year after planting several packages (hundreds of seeds) because of slugs, so I really have very little sympathy for them. I also seek and destroy as many egg clutches as I can find in the fall, if I don’t manage to kill them in the middle of mating.
You say you have little sympathy for snails and their suffering , yet you expect nature’s blessing on your life and your garden and activities? What makes you so special?
I am very happy you recommend the relocating, as you won’t kill them. But how can you recommend “being eaten” as a humane way to deal with slugs. Being eaten alive is a very stressful and very painful process for pretty much all animals and it is under no circumstances a humane way to die. It is in fact a very very cruel and inhumane death to give a living being. A humane death requires the animal to die instantly, which means the most humane death for a slug is to crush it’s head by a very fast and forceful stomp or a very fast and forceful crush with a heavy object.
Even in your article about natural slug control, you have “non-violent” in the title, yet in that article under “Means that prevent damage in the long-term” you say “attract natural enemies”. That means the slug will die a horrible and violent death, once again inhumane. It is most definitely not a non-violent solution as the slug will meet a violent death from a predator. Just because it is an animal instead of a human that does the killing, does not mean it is okay, because it doesn’t change the fact that the slug ends up suffering a painful death.
I understand they can be a real pain in the butt when it comes to one’s garden, but they are living beings just like us and should have some rights to not die an agonizing death as you mentioned yourself. So why would you recommend/promote luring/buying predators to the garden and let them eat the poor slugs in a very inhumane and pain inducing way. No animal deserves the horror and suffering that comes with being eaten alive. It’s just wrong to recommend the suffering of another living being, human or not.
Nobody is even talking about the poor, defenseless COVID virus and how much PAIN and INHUMANE AGONY that the vaccine antibodies do to those poor things!!! I mean… while we’re discussing THINGS THAT DON’T MATTER!
What a silly, snide comment. Alexander is trying to give people the information they need to find a way of minimizing slug damage in the most humane way. Slugs are a necessary part of the ecosystem. Without creatures like slugs, nature would not be able to recycle dead plants and animals.
I found this article really interesting as since early childhood I’ve tried never to kill any worms, insects or molluscs deliberately as I find their behaviours so fascinating and I could (and have!) watched them for hours, especially spiders, ants and of course slugs/snails (which come in all shapes and sizes and in such beautiful colours). I have to restrain myself from taking issue with friends and acquaintances when they (almost universally it seems) go into a major flap-on in the middle of an interesting conversation because there are a few wasps buzzing around their can of coke. There seems to be a major lack of knowledge about how insects and ‘creepy-crawlies’ operate and people have all sorts of crazy ideas about how they could be harmed by wasps/spiders/moths that are mere specks in comparison with human size and which are in many cases simply trying to escape from unfamiliar and scary surroundings . It seems so many people have no concept that getting into a frenzy of swatting not only provokes stinging insects but is frankly downright rude in the context of a get-together and catch-up. I feel really angry when people kill creatures gratuitously in their homes – and especially when they are in mine! – without even attempting the glass-and-piece of card option or (in the case of wasps) the ‘distraction’ option of a spoonful of honey or jam on a strategically-placed saucer. I feel absolutely terrible when I tread on a snail even by accident, despite the fact that there are many hundreds of them in the garden eating my flowering plants down to bare stems. I was absolutely fuming only a couple of days ago that an overnight guest swatted a large and lovely moth, injured it and dumped it down the toilet in the apparent belief that it would eat holes in his woollen jumpers before morning. He obviously knows nothing of their habits and it wasn’t even a clothes moth. He clearly has no clue and for my part I can’t even express how astonished and annoyed I was at his ignorance. I own no sprays or poisons against any creatures and am happy to leave the wasps to make their nest in the roof tiles or the cavity wall, in the knowledge that they will do us no harm and will relocate next year having given me immense enjoyment from watching their activities all summer. A few people on this site have expressed their disbelief and even contempt that people should worry about the welfare of ‘critters’ when there is so much human distress in the world. To that I would say that people who are compassionate to creatures generally tend to be equally so towards humans, especially since the acid test of ‘can they suffer?’ applies most especially to people. I don’t feel that my love for the natural world in any way diminishes my depth of feeling for – or my wish to help if I can- anyone who is suffering. The two things are not mutually exclusive and in fact I’d argue that if you can empathise with the plight of even a lowly insect or mollusc then you’re well-equipped to recognise need and hurry to assist.
Well said Ann.
What a lovely posting, Ann. I agree with you absolutely.
I love that I stumbled upon this. I wasn’t looking to get rid of the slugs that frequent my porch, but just learn more about them. There’s a stay cat that I feed, (whose basically become a resident, but refuses to come inside) but after having find many slugs in his food, I learned they’ll eat cat food, and when I’m on the porch every night smoking, I’ll grab a piece for each slug on its way to the bowl, set it in front of it, and watch it chow down! I find it cute, personally.
But thank you for writing this! Great to see someone offering real humane alternatives, as opposed to the, “least painful way to kill a slug. “
I have tried layering sand from the beach around my plants, negotiated with my local cafe for bags of leftover ground coffee beans, copper wire, direct table salt and even diluting urine to water my plants. Even covering snails in all three and throwing them onto the neighbours roof. They all did NOTHING to deter snails and slugs in my garden, or to prevent them from returning. They completely desecrated two extremely plants of potted mint and stripped my daisy bush and frangipani tree of all its leaves. The ONLY true and tested way I found, after catching numerous snails climbing my colorbond fence , was to fill an empty can with 1/4 cup of bleach, and to methodically pick them up one by one, ensuring I had a lid to cover in case they mutated and returned with vengeance. Each night I go out with my trust torch (yes it has become an obsession) and look for the silvery trail for slugs, and the conical shell of snails. From being completely disheartened and having my sole destroyed after watching my plants be stripped of their beauty, I am somewhat elated each time i put another critter in the can. Word must have spread, because my nightly ritual is lucky to find me the tiniest of slugs, no snails now for 4 days! This, I have found, is the only true way to eradicate these completely destructive creatures that offer no benefit to the cgarden at all.
I have just discovered a pipe FULL of snails in my garden (I saw at least 30 and have no idea how far down it goes) where I am planning on planting herbs and vegetables. I’m trying to figure out the best way of dealing with them… I’m not sure if the pipe is connected or if I can take it out with them in them just yet, but I’m assuming the former as its dug into the ground. If I just trap them in there I don’t know where they’ll go, if I catch them in traps just outside of the pipe I don’t know where I’d take them (would a local pond/lake be okay? ) also I’d be worried that I wouldn’t get them all and they’d just breed all over again and I’d continue to have the same issue. Any advice?
Hi Katie, thank you for your question. Often snails are not a problem for your vegetables. If you want to be safe you could trap them and bring them into the wild. Mother nature will take care of them. Just don’t worry too much. Even if you let them stay there probably it won’t be a disaster. Many snails are beneficial animals. They eat dead plants, animals and fungi and thereby speed up composting. May you have a beautiful garden season! Alex
A very useful, thoughtful and well discussed article, thank you.
I do hope the time will come soon when we all realize that all living creatures need our respect and sympathetic handling. I believe this is being slowly understood about octopus and lobsters, and there’s no reason that creatures which appear to make no sound when being killed deserve any less care.
Thank you, Alexander.