Slug Control: How to Identify, Prevent and Get Rid of Slugs

A snail without a shell – this is one of the best ways to describe a slug. While they have a soft body that makes them seem delicate, they can feed on almost any type of plant, although the most susceptible to their damage are the young plants. They can create aesthetic damage to their host plants and can restrict the flow of the essential nutrients. To prevent its devastating effects, it pays to know how to get rid of slugs.

Most slugs have a length that ranges from .5 to 5 inches. It is unusual for them to grow longer than that, although the Limax cinereoniger, the largest type of a slug, can grow up to 12 inches. Their color can vary, but they are usually black, brown, or gray. There are also species with bright color, such as a banana slug, which is obviously yellow.

It is important to note that they are descendants of snails. Over time, they lose their shells, with some still having remnants. The latter becomes part of their internal organ. They also have two pairs of feelers on the top of their head. One of these pairs is for sensing light and the other one is for smelling.

Slugs Eating

Slugs are Descendants of Snails

Slug’s Habitat

Slugs thrive the most in an environment that is moist. They are active after the rain. During the warm season, to protect themselves from the heat of the sun, they will seek refuge in damp locations. In winter, on the other hand, they will stay under the soil. In most instances, they hate glossy or waxy leaves. Also, they will most likely not live in plants with foliage that comes with a strong smell.

Identifying Slug’s Damage

Plant’s Affected

With a large appetite, slugs can feed on a lot, although they often consume leaf litter and decaying vegetation. There are species that are herbivorous, which means that they feed exclusively on plants, damaging their different parts. They prefer the parts of plants with high water content. Some of their host plants include asparagus, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, tomato, potato, eggplant, strawberry, and beans, among others.


The following are some of the most common symptoms of damages caused by slugs:

  • The leaf is one of the parts of the plant that will show evidence of the presence of slugs. They will mostly feed on the surface of the leaves, although there can also be chewed edges. They will make irregular holes around the leaves, which can cause it to turn yellow over time.
  • There are also some that will feed on the fruit of the host, such as strawberries. They can leave feces on the surface, which will be sticky. This will make the fruit more prone to contamination.

Results of Infestation

The feeding of slugs can result to cosmetic damages, especially in fruits like strawberries. This means that the crop will be unmarketable because of its aesthetics. When the infestation is severe or when the population is large, this will equate to profit loss for commercial growers. To add, the feeding can also inhibit the transfer of nutrients to the other parts of the plant, especially when they damage the roots. This is in the case of the species of slugs that live under the ground.

Slugs Damage

Green Leaves Eaten by Slugs

How to Get Rid of Slugs

Natural and Organic Solutions

To control and eliminate slugs without the need to resort to toxic and unsafe methods, the following are some of the solutions that can bring promising results.

  • One of the best solutions is to grow plants that will be effective in deterring slugs. Some of the best are those with strong odor, which will keep the slugs away. Some of the plants that you need to have in the garden include ginger, mint, chives, garlic, buttercups, violets, spring cabbage, kale, and marigolds, among others.
  • Handpicking slugs is also a common method to handle their infestation. This can be quite challenging since you have to do it at night when they are more active. After picking the slugs, be sure to throw them in a bucket of soapy water. This will kill the slugs and prevent them from going back to their host.
  • Using physical barriers will be helpful in keeping them out of the plant. For instance, you might want to consider the use of copper foil to form a protective barrier around the plants. Although this is an expensive barrier, this can prove to be highly effective.
  • Trapping and baiting will prove to be effective in controlling their population and monitoring their presence in the garden. A tall cup of beer or milk, which is partially buried under the soil, is one of the good ways to attract slugs and to make sure that they will not be able to escape.
  • It will also be good to use sandpaper or crushed egg shells. Place them around the host plant, which will also serve as a protective barrier. This will scratch the body of the slugs and will kill them before they can cause damages to your plants.
  • Another thing that you can do is to sprinkle diatomaceous earth. Keep in mind that this is not a one-time solution. You should replenish it, especially after rain. When using diatomaceous earth, make sure to prevent inhalation to avoid problems.
  • The use of biological control or natural predators will also be promising. Ground beetles are some of the best natural enemies of slugs. Chickens, jays, birds, and robins will also feed on the slugs, making sure that they won’t wreak havoc in the garden. Parasitic worms, such as nematodes, are also common choices.
  • If you are looking for a natural alternative to pesticides with toxic chemicals, consider using a mixture of vinegar and water. This is good if there is only a small population that you have to treat.

Chemical Solutions

As usual, chemical control is not recommended because they pose danger to beneficial insects and to pets. The toxicity of chemical pesticides will make them do more harm than good. Nonetheless, there are still some, especially commercial growers, who resort to its use. It is common for large-scale infestation. With this, be sure to follow the instructions from the manufacturer to yield the highest level of effectiveness and to prioritize safety.

Among others, metaldehyde is one of the most common chemicals for the treatment of slugs. Some of the specific products that use this ingredient include Slug-Geta and Slug-it. It causes paralysis to the slugs, allowing it to excrete mucus and eventually, it will die.  Methiocarb is another common chemical, which is the common ingredient in products by Olympic and Bayer.


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