Garden Myths - Learn the truth about gardening

How to Get Rid of Slugs with Beer

It is getting warmer and the Hostas are growing. It is time for the slugs and snails to come out and do their damage. There is a lot of advice on the net on how to get rid of slugs and snails including; beer traps, diatomaceous earth, egg shells, salt and copper tape. I’ve examined copper tape in How to Get Rid of Slugs with Copper. In this post I will look at killing slugs with beer.

beer slug trap

How to get rid of slugs with beer

What is a Slug Beer Trap?

Slugs and snails are apparently attracted to beer. If you take a small container like a tuna tin, fill it with beer, and set it on the ground. The slugs will be attracted to the beer, go for a sip, fall in and drown. Don’t submerge the top of the tin even with the soil level or you might also kill ground beetles which eat slugs. Keep rims at least 1″ above soil level.

Slug beer traps only attract slugs in  the surrounding few feet, so you need lots of them to be effective. According to Slugoff, a company that makes a more sophisticated beer trap, you need a trap every meter (3 feet).

Do Beer Slug Traps work?

A video is worth a thousand words:

Source: A Time Lapse of Slugs and Beer

There are several important points to notice. Slugs do seem to be attracted to the beer. You can see several going past the slug trap, and then changing direction toward the trap. Near the beginning of the video you can also see a slug about a foot away from the trap, who turns around and leaves–they need to get close for the trap for it to work well. Most slugs take a drink and leave. They have no trouble climbing up the side of the container. A few do drop in and die, but most don’t.

The slug beer traps do seem to work but there are some limitations:

  • they work over a very short distance
  • most slugs will just enjoy the beer and leave. Maybe, they will have a hangover the next day and leave your Hostas alone?

Do you Need to Use Beer?

Reference 1 compares the effectiveness of various beers and other fermentation products like yeast solutions to see which works best. Here are some of their conclusions:

  • slugs are not attracted to the alcohol, it’s the yeast or yeast by products that attracts them
  • different beers do work quite differently
  • sugar + baking yeast was as effective as some beers, but not as effective as Budweiser

How to Get Rid Slugs

The slug beer traps are modestly effective. They will kill slugs, but most will get away. I think it is a real shame to waste beer on slug traps. If you feel the need to use them, use sugar + yeast–and drink the beer!

You might also like these posts on other methods for getting rid of slugs:

Getting Rid of Slugs with Coffee Grounds

How to Get Rid of Slugs with Copper

References:

1) Attractiveness of Beer and Fermentation Products to Slugs

2) Photo Source; Tony Cyphert

Robert Pavlis
Editor of GardenMyths.com
I live in southern Ontario, Canada, zone 5 and have been gardening a long time. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

I hope you find Garden Myths an educational site that helps you understand your garden better.

55 Responses to 'How to Get Rid of Slugs with Beer'

  1. amy manning says:

    I did my own experience as well and found that most of the slugs simply drank the beer and moved on. This raised the question as to whether or not we’re simply compounding the problem.

  2. Meredyth Sawyer says:

    I wish to get rid of leopard slugs in my worm farm but if I put a yeast bait in it, with it attract the worms as well. I don’t want them to drown in the trap too. Also, I believe that worms aren’t attracted to light, so would it be safe to put a millipede light trap in the worm farm. Again, the worms would drown if they cross the water to the light.

  3. David Mobley says:

    I’ve used tuna fish cans to bait slugs w/beer. I try to bury them only about half way into the grounds as slugs seem to find a way in. Pillbugs seem to like the beer too. Like many folks I found lots of slugs drinking my bait and leaving. Understanding that the “traps” certainly attracted the beasts, I took to checking the traps and adjacent area. With my flashlight, rubber glove, tongs, and a cottage cheese carton w/half an inch of salt in the bottom, I head out at 11:00 and make my run. I pick the dead ones out of the traps, then the ones sipping at the sides and then the ground adjacent. I’ll consistently harvest 25-30 slugs a night. I also find several slugs “in transit” during my hunt. So for me, the beer bait works although it’s kill to sipping rate may not great. To keep rain from diluting my bait or washing it out completely I improvised a cover by cutting a gallon milk jug roughly in half. Next I cut a low arched opening on each side of the jug to make it welcoming. I had some left over spray paint and camouflaged them w/a spot of brown and tan and green so they wouldn’t stand out in the garden. Saved some beer. Slugs seemed to enjoy climbing up onto the inside of the covers so I always check to see if any are hiding up there. I’ve noticed that the slugs I catch are usually the larger ones. When I check my hostas I often find the damage being done by very small, half an inch or smaller, slugs working on the underside of leaves but never find them in the traps. Or perhaps they disappear into the “brew”. Any thoughts?

  4. Pete says:

    Hi. I just followed the instructions on making a beer slug trap here (https://www.earth-ways.co.uk/resources/slugs/), and can report fantastic results.

    I put two of these traps out yesterday evening, after 24 hours they are both full of dead slugs, perhaps 10-15 in each!

    There are a couple of important design differences:
    – use a juice bottle, with the lid still on, so that rain does not dilute the content
    – cut holes in the side, high enough up to deter most non-slug entities from climbing in
    – for those non-slugs that do make it in, put a stick in through a hole so that they have an escape route

  5. marie says:

    Greetings from the French Alps.
    So, in the end, setting-up beer or yeast traps is just a mean of easily hand-collecting slimies, isn’t it ?
    I’ve been using beer traps from time to time, but as I always find some of their predators (beetles) drowned with a few slugs, I tend to give-up : seems counter-productive. Would yeats trap also attract friendly beetles ?
    Hand-collecting before night does work provided it’s done night after night (then I walk down the street to the stream and feed the wild trouts). But i’ve been slack, and the beasts have devoured half of my ornementals.
    Once, I went out with a torch at midnight, and got scared at the sight ! And last night, two huge leopard slugs were entwined (heart-shaped !) on the wall near the kitchen door. Yuck ! Should have called the morality police.
    Thanks for your useful experiments. Who ever finally gets the perfect solution will get rich, the world over !

  6. leila says:

    I REALLY appreciate the information and video on slugs. I spent several nights setting up beer traps and only to collected a few very small slugs. Tonight I set up my yeast traps and then went out and collected slugs as they were drinking. I now have a bucket of soapy water filled with slugs of all sizes!

  7. Gayle says:

    It seems to me that the real question regarding the effectiveness of the beer traps in controlling slugs isn’t “do they drink and leave?”. Rather it is “do the traps result in significantly less damage to the plants?” They may drink, leave and then die later – killed by the ingested beer. If they stop eating my hosta I don’t mind if they get away from the trap.

  8. vineeta says:

    I’m so glad you busted all these myths before I tried some of these purported remedies. Does sprinkling baking soda get rid of them?
    We’ve had so much rain here that they’ve hijacked my garden. I’m especially upset that they’re all over my lettuce bin in the cold frame. Do I need to sterilize the soil (I don’t even know how I’d do it) so they won’t return?
    Thanks,

    • I have not looked into baking soda. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate and is slightly alkaline. For this reason it might deter slugs.

      But…. sodium is toxic to plants so you don’t really want to add it to the garden. Baking soda also dissolves easily in water so it will leech into the soil if it is wet, or if it rains. It does not seem like a good choice to me.

    • I think short of hiring a hungry band of geese or ducks to gobble your slugs there is little in the way of earth friendly solutions.
      You wouldn’t want the quackers anyway, they leave profuse amounts of excrement everywhere they go. In places where they tend to congregate year around (like in parks) the droppings can become a real problem.

  9. Danielle says:

    After two summers of decimated gardens, I tried the beer trick, and it did have some success, but I didn’t know until reading your blog that the slugs can sip and leave, not all of them drown. Today I tried your yeast, flour and sugar trick, went inside to make more, when I returned to the garden I found several fat snails and slugs working their way into the new mix traps! It worked better than the beer! I am wondering if you have ever tested a yeast or beer trap in a “moat” of salt water? Would that deter the slugs from trying to crawl into the beer/yeast trap?

    • No – but that is a really good idea. I wonder if it works? The slugs may be smart enough not to go into the salt water.

      • Danielle says:

        I tried it, left one deep saucer with salt water and a container of yeasted sugared water in the middle, and another one with juice mixed into the salt water. Several days later (and after a rainy day) the plain salt saucer was slug free but the juice saucer had a collection of slugs and a few other critters. It also had a live slug on the edge, couldn’t tell if he had gone for swim yet, but he was a deeper pink than his cousins. I’ll try it again

        • Interesting. You might try two comparison tubs. One with only yeast sugar water, and one with the orange juice moat around it. That way you can see if one works better than the other.

  10. William Lynn says:

    Just putting in my two cents worth.
    This past Sunday at my local nursery here in Locust Grove Georgia purchasing fertilizer I asked the question about purchasing slug bait. A gentleman said I shouldn’t buy a bottle of beer put out some saucers pour the beer in the saucers and place them close to what the slugs were eating. In this case hydrangeas and Cannalilly’s. Genuinely thought he was pulling my leg, but I did it anyway and now for the third night in a row I have dumped and flushed down the toilet approximately 300 slugs. I just went and bought another 40 ounce bottle of Budweiser and have five saucers spaced about 3 feet apart and I relatively small area. At first when the beer is cold they don’t seem to enjoy it too much, but once it warms like climb up in the saucers and drown. I have very few that escape, I just can’t figure out how many there are and how long this is going to go on in such a small area any ideas I would appreciate some help in knowing just how many there could be one by now, I just flushed about 85 more and I’m putting out some more beer again ???

  11. A number of years ago back in Scotland, I tried the ‘beer drowning’ of slugs. Not only did fairly few slugs frequent my slug pubs, the ones that did … crawled in… under the liquid and … out again later! They seemed to be impervious to drowning !! Perhaps it’s a Scottish thing and they are used to the vast amounts of rain …. lol!!!

  12. Greg says:

    This is interesting, but it seems you’re doing what I’ve read not to do, that is sinking the top of the container to ground level. Other articles say to leave it above ground level. Also, I can’t tell how big the container is, but it doesn’t look like there’s enough beer to drown them. I haven’t tried any slug trap yet, but am still looking and reading articles.

    • It is not my experiment. I have never seen any ‘scientifc’ studies looking at the depth of container or the size, but it might have an effect – or not. If you find some properly done comparisons, let me know.

      • David Woolway says:

        I have 5 beer traps and choose a lovely(not really) German bitter from Aldi. Best investment for £1.25 per bottle. Anyway taken out about two hundreds slugs in the last week after trying coffee. That’s for the ones that escape now to cure their hangovers.

        • Danielle says:

          David Woolway, I missed something, did you put out brewed coffee to catch those 200 slugs?

  13. Art Thompson says:

    Oh yes. The Alkaline Diet. I had forgotten about that one.
    I prefer the acid diet. Fresh Tomato, Pineapple, Mango, Orange, and Lime juice. Always diluted with almost PH neutral Ethyl alcohol. An excellent balance.
    Pardon the digression

  14. David James says:

    Nematodes work well but are expensive and do require moist soil continuously otherwise they pop off too.

    The slug problem here in my UK location is huge. Living on the edge of forest area combined with English weather makes ideal conditions. Put new bedding in the wormery today which has almost as many slugs as worms.

    Will try the ‘todes’ again now the weather is cooler, first lot dried out.

    • I was going to reply that ‘nematodes don’t kill slugs” but that is not true, except in North America!

      The slug nematodes available in Europe are not available in North America since they don’t exist here naturally.

  15. Art Thompson says:

    WOW! you have big slugs.
    When I used traps I used yeast water and pie tins. They definitely got in but didn’t get out. As you point out, only effective for a small area and you of course have to mess with them often.
    For entertainment, a sprayer with weak ammonia solution is fun. It doesn’t harm the plants or soil like salt does. Go hunting after sundown, or you can just spray the hostas and the soil to get ones you can’t see.
    My biggest find though, was a local farmer. It turns out that the Slug Bait you buy at the box stores is a total rip-off. In Agricultural quantities, they buy the same stuff you can get at Lowe’s etc. for about $25 to treat an acre. He gave me a lifetime supply of the pellets.

    • What is weak ammonia solution?? I would not spray it on my plants unless I know for sure the concentration is low enough not to bother them.

      • Art Thom says:

        You’re right, I should have been more specific. I’ve never given nitrogen burn to plants using about 1 oz in a quart spray bottle. And I haven’t systematically tested it. Slugs aren’t a big issue here , except for the hostas.

  16. Kristin says:

    I have four of them in My garden ( beer traps). I use a homemade beer or a craft beer. I don’t sink the container. I fill it 1/2 way. I get 10-15 slugs per trap every evening. It’s really the only thing that works!!!

  17. hotwired64 says:

    Beer works too well – I think Budweiser buses slugs in every night as a marketing strategy. I attach drip edge around the perimeter of my raised beds, They need to maintain surface contact to climb and can’t negotiate the edge and fall back to the ground.

  18. Karen Hinds says:

    This is interesting. I put a bandaid on my slug problem…….I chase them around with salt. That’s just gross and ineffective in the long term. I will try beer in tins. The slugs love to congregate on my concrete back patio and driveway. I’ve often wondered what they talk about at their meetings. Maybe with a little beer, their conversations will border on hilarious! Thanks!

    • Salt sprinkled on the slug does kill them, but too much in the garden can be toxic to plants.

    • barb says:

      We use big plastic pop bottles filled with a strong solution of warm salt water and a very tiny hole drilled in the cap. I’ve been thinking about trying cinnamon sprinkles around plants you don’t want destroyed as it is so caustic it might burn the slugs if they try to crawl over it.

      • How exactly do you use the salt solution? Do you dribble it on the slugs? Why not just pick them up and put them in a salt bath? seems like a lot less work.

        Are you saying the cinnamon sprinkles are caustic? News to me – time for some Googling. It is amazing what one finds on the internet. I could not find the pH of cinnamon. Did you know that there are nuts out there that try to make their bodies more alkaline by eating weird food – one of them is cinnamon. It is listed as an alkaline food – but so is half of the stuff we eat. Being slightly alkaline does not make it caustic – a term usually used for substances with a very high pH.

        Have you heard of the cinnamon challenge? Me neither. It is on the net, and people are challenged to eat a tablespoon of cinnamon powder. Not a smart idea. “It coats and dries the mouth and throat, resulting in coughing, gagging, vomiting and inhaling of cinnamon, leading to throat irritation, breathing difficulties, and risk of pneumonia or a collapsed lung”, from http://www.worldofchemicals.com/459/chemistry-articles/the-principle-of-cinnamon-challenge.html?utm_source=Social%20media%2029th%20Sep&utm_medium=Article&utm_content=Chemistry%20of%20Cinnamon&utm_campaign=Article%2029th%20Sep

        High pH does not seem to be a problem!

        I doubt that cinnamon is caustic, and I doubt it will keep slugs away.

  19. Thomas Brophy says:

    Thanks for all the myth busting! Last year I read that spreading corn meal would kill slugs following ingestion. Tried it, but found no definitive benefit. Have you heard/tested such a hypothesis?

  20. Susan Scott says:

    I’ve often used old bread yeast and sugar for slug traps; that produces alcohol. I used to go out just before bedtime to check my traps, and I’d usually find a group of slugs carousing. My Swiss Army knife made short work of them, or if they were little slugs, I’d just push them in. Now I dig the trap in enough that I can put a board over it, and I’ll find a good collection of slugs under the board in the morning. Even after the alcohol has evaporated, they like the yeasty sugar water.

    I really appreciate your posts. I was just about to take the copper wire out of an old extension cord to use as a slug deterrent when I discovered your report that it doesn’t work!

    • Robert Pavlis says:

      One of the studies on testing different types of beer shows that alcohol is not the attractant for slugs. It is the yeasty sugar combo.

    • Paul Newson says:

      “I was just about to take the copper wire out of an old extension cord to use as a slug deterrent when I discovered your report that it doesn’t work!”

      It definitely does work if you have two copper wires and a 9v battery. Some species will turn away at the first copper strip (I believe this is more likely to be due to the toxicity of copper rather than any “induced current” nonsense) but the vast majority of those who aren’t bothered by the copper alone will turn back as soon as they get zapped by the electricity. The very few brave souls who repeatedly try to find a way to my plants will usually fall to the ground after three or four electric shocks. Each of my raised beds is protected by two electrified copper strips at the top and needs only one battery per year. In the spring, when changing batteries, I also dose the beds with predatory nematodes to catch any of the little bleeders that made it into the bed when the battery was low in the winter.

      • I am sure your system works – but it is the electricity, not the copper.

        By the way – the slug nematodes are not available in North America, because they are not native here.

        • Paul Newson says:

          I agree, it is the electricity although I have observed a few species turning back at the first strip where the circuit isn’t complete so I’m convinced that some species are deterred by copper alone. “Some species” is not enough to save plants, it needs to deter them all. It’s a pity about the nematodes being unavailable, but certainly understandable considering the potential consequences of introducing new species to the wild. They are very effective, particularly when coupled with a barrier method.

  21. Kim says:

    This is amazing! I was disappointed in the lack of slugs caught in my test beer trap, but it never occurred to me that they were drinking and leaving.

  22. Robert Pavlis says:

    Test Comment

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