Slug and Snail Control

- Use iron phosphate baits, and traps -

Summary: Slug and snail control requires patience. You can use either low toxicity iron phosphate baits or labor intensive yeast-based traps. Either way, but especially with traps, you'll need to be patient and persistent.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Slug and snail control

Your goal should be to only reduce the number of slugs and snails in your garden to some acceptable level because there is no need to try to completely eliminate them. You may need to trap and bait every year, or at least every other year, to accomplish an acceptable level of control. If you are diligent you can reduce slug and snail numbers so they no longer pose an important concern. Slug and snail control involves three basic steps -- exclusion, trapping, and/or baiting.

Copper foil strips, available from many garden supply stores, are an effective barrier for excluding slugs and snails from raised beds, benches or pots. Be careful not to trap them inside with the plants, however. Where possible, remove piles of debris and other material that may serve as shelter. Hand-pick slugs and snails when they are found and drop them into soapy water.

grey garden slug
grey garden slug (about 1/2" long)

Use safer iron-based slug baits

Slug baits are usually bran-based flakes, pastes or pellets plus a molluscicide, or slug poison. Baits are easier to use than traps but they can pose a danger because they are also attractive to pets and wildlife. The big news in the last few years has been the introduction of safer baits.

Older baits contain the active ingredient metaldehyde (Deadline, etc.) and metaldehyde baits are a risk to pets and wildlife from accidental poisoning (see below). New baits use iron, or ferric, phosphate as the active ingredient. These baits are effective and pose less threat to pets and wildlife. Use poison baits in the fall and spring when these pests are most active in the garden (see Using Slug & Snail Baits).

Slug and snail traps

Both slugs and snails are attracted to yeasty odors like bread or beer. With traps you can use this behavior to draw slugs or snails into a container from which they can not escape. Simple beer traps are very effective but require regular maintenance, commercial versions are available that are simpler to use.

Slug and snail predators

Finally slugs and snails have many natural enemies. Predators such as birds, snakes, and small mammals as well as insects like ground beetles and even a predatory snail contribute to overall reduction in slug and snail populations. Care should be taken to encourage small snakes and other predators. Don't kill these important natural predators!

Metaldehyde slug bait poisoning

Metaldehyde is the poison used in some older slug and snail baits. It may be formulated with bran or molasses as pellets, flakes, liquid, or paste that attracts slugs and snails but also is highly attractive to dogs, and some wildlife. Ingestion of metaldehyde causes vomiting, heart irregularities, breathing difficulty, tremors and even death. There is no antidote and many dogs have been fatally poisoned.

If baits containing metaldehyde are used, use them sparingly and try to put them in places where slugs and snails find them but other animals will not. Another potential problem with these older baits is that wildlife may ingest slugs and snails that have fed on a metaldehyde bait and the wildlife are themselves poisoned.

Don't forget to bookmark us for next time - press ctrl-D in most browsers.

Mission: To provide accurate, up-to-date and unbiased information for solving common insect and mite problems around your home, business and landscape using least-toxic methods.

Please see the Disclaimer statements as well.

Copyright © 2004-... LivingWithBugs, LLC. All rights reserved.