Control Slugs and Snails with Bread Dough

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Robert Pavlis

Now that sounds crazy! You are trying to get rid of slugs and snails and now some people are suggesting you feed them with bread dough? This sounds like another DIY garden myth, but it’s not. In this case it is a simple solution that has been scientifically tested and proven to work.

ball of uncooked bread dough with four snails crawling on it.
Snails are attracted to bread dough, source: Depositphotos

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Why Bread Dough?

You have probably heard that beer attracts slugs and it does work to some extent. The problem is that most visiting slugs and snails just come for a drink and don’t fall into the trap.

This fact got Dr. Rory McDonnell, associate professor and Extension gastropod specialist (slugs and snails) thinking about other options. Beer is the result of fermentation and so is bread. He wondered if bread might work as well and it did. He then went on to test all kinds of different food items including including numerous kinds of beer, cucumber, lettuce, strawberries, citrus, tomatoes, hostas and Marmite.

His results show that bread dough is by far the best attractant for slugs and snails and it’s far superior to beer. Bread Dough is even a better attractant than commercial slug bait.

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Does cucumber on aluminum foil stop slugs?

Attraction vs Control

It is important to understand that attracting the pests is only the first step. You also need some way to control them, which is a kind way of saying you want to kill them.

You can combine bread dough with a trap that contains liquid metaldehyde, a known toxin of gastropods, but these traps are not easy for the average gardener to use. They did however work well in Dr McDonnell’s research.

Bread dough is just an attractant so if you use it in the garden you will have to go out and pick off the pests from the dough. The other option is to use a bread dough slurry instead and set up a trap to drown them similar to a beer trap. Testing showed that both the dough and slurry were equally effective in attracting the pest.

The Bread Dough Slurry Trap

The beer trap is a small dish that is sunk into the soil, so that slugs and snails can easily crawl to the edge of the trap and take a drink. In the process they fall in and drown. The exact same trap can be used if the bread dough is made into a slurry using the following recipe.

Ingredients:

  • one cup flower
  • two cups water (only one cup if you are making dough)
  • one pack of dried yeast

Mix the ingredients. Add more water if it is too thick. It can be used right away, but it becomes more potent after 24 hours.

Bread dough slurry ready to go into the garden, source: LeAnn Locher

Pour some into a small dish such as a old yogurt container or tuna can. Sink it in the soil so that the edge of the container is at soil level. If it starts to dry out add more water as needed. If the top gets crusty, give it a stir.

Microbe Science for Gardeners Book, by Robert Pavlis

The mixture is good for 14 days but in a heavily infested area you might need to dump it out more frequently.

Bread dough is toxic to pets so keep them away from the traps or cover the traps well.

Will sourdough discard work? It has not been tested but the researchers feel confident that it too will work.

A Better Slug Trap

The above mentioned trap is simple to make but it does have its down side. Rain will overflow the slurry and if it is dry, water evaporates easily. Both problems are solved by using this modification from One Yard Revolution

cottage cheese container with opening in the side
Better slug trap, source One Yard Revolution

Take a plastic container with a lid, such as a reused yogurt container, and cut several openings about 2″ from the bottom. These allows slugs to crawl in. The holes can be cut in rectangles as pictured above or they can be 1″ holes. Set it in the soil so the bottom of the holes are at soil level. Pour the bread dough slurry into the bottom of the container and put the lid back on.

If you prefer a commercial product, you can use a beer trap from Amazon and use bread dough instead of beer.

Important Slug Facts

How effective is the trap?

It works very well provided it is near enough to the slug. Slugs can smell the bread dough from about 1 meter (3-4 feet) away. At night they can travel several yards but they need to get close enough to the trap to smell it. It is best to place several traps around the garden, especially near their favorite food plant.

Will the trap attract slugs from the neighborhood?

Provided you don’t put the traps right at the edge of your property, they won’t attract slugs from the neighbor into your yard.

The life cycle of slugs and snails?

If you want to know more about their life cycle, check out the Slug Portal.

How do Slugs Find the Bait?

Slugs and snails have poor eyesight so they find their food using smell.

Other DIY Solutions for Slugs and Snails

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Robert Pavlis

I have been gardening my whole life and have a science background. 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!

3 thoughts on “Control Slugs and Snails with Bread Dough”

  1. I use sourdough and can omitt the yeast and the sugar. A jar of sourdough is in my fridge and I refill meal if needed.

    Why the slugs are so suicidal?

    Reply
  2. I wish I’d seen this a couple of weeks ago – at Deep River we found a species of slug not previously reported from Ontario – Arion vulgaris – and despite the wife’s protests I gave the captives some bread, and they all died.

    Reply

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