Does Cornmeal Kill Slugs and Snails?

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Robert Pavlis

The claim is that slugs and snails are attracted to cornmeal and after eating it, the cornmeal expands and kills them. What a simple organic method for getting rid of slugs, but does it work?

Does Cornmeal Kill Slugs and Snails?
Does Cornmeal Kill Slugs and Snails?

Do Slugs Eat Cornmeal?

Yes, they seem to love the stuff.

Does Cornmeal Kill Them?

The simple answer is no. In fact cornmeal is commonly fed to snails to purge them of toxic material before eating them. They need to stay alive and healthy for this process to work.

It is not clear where the idea of exploding snails comes from but it is a common belief for several different pests including ants and earwigs. I don’t know of a single pest that explodes after eating something. Just because dry material expands when it gets wet does not mean that an animal’s digestive system is not able to handle it.

Corn Gluten Meal

Don’t confuse the cornmeal with corn gluten meal. Corn meal is the yellow granular material sold in grocery stores, and corn gluten meal is sold at the hardware store for feeding lawns and preventing seed germination.

Microbe Science for Gardeners Book, by Robert Pavlis

Getting Rid of Slugs and Snails

There are all kinds of methods for getting rid of snails and I have reviewed several of these including:


  1. Photo source; madame.furie


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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!

11 thoughts on “Does Cornmeal Kill Slugs and Snails?”

  1. Have you any thoughts on the use of slug pellets? I’m afraid to use them because ‘everyone’ knows the dead slugs are then going to kill hedgehogs and frogs. Is there any evidence of this? I’m hoping this is another gardening myth.
    Gail Thornbury Northern Ireland

  2. A gardener of thirty years experience told me to mix 1cup of ammonia with 1gallon of water. Spray slug damaged plants once per week with weed sprayer throughout the growing season. Doesn’t burn plants, deters slugs, and provides a gentle feeding of nitrogen.

    • If you use too much ammonia you can damage plants. It may add some nitrogen, but some is lost to the air as a gas.

      There will be very little residue from the ammonia on leaves since it vaporizes easily – that is the smell you notice when you use it. It won’t protect plants after it dries. It does kill slugs if they are sprayed with it directly.

  3. I’m with Scott Reed! Cornmeal is indeed what is fed to snails in preparation for eating– along with maybe some tasty greens.

  4. Here is how I got my slug infestation under control: First I put out lots of 2×4 and 2×6’s for the slugs to live under. During the day the boards were turned over several times; the slugs were picked for the chickens and the undersides of the boards and the ground were sprayed liberally with 1:1 diluted ammonia. In the evening the plants that were covered with slugs – primarily chinese cabbage and lettuce, but also some flowers, and under the boards and pots again – were sprayed with the ammonia solution. This went on for several weeks, maybe longer. (I did burn some plant tops, but that was incidental compared to the slug damage.) The second year, they were manageable. I tried every single home remedy before this: DE, copper, beer, salt, slug-go, no mulch, sand, etc. I have since learned that wasps and beetles are a predator to slugs. Wasps now have free reign in my garden and the only sting I’ve had is stepping into a shoe with a wasp hiding in it on a cold morning. (Wasps also help with aphid control)

  5. First, there is no scientific evidence that cornmeal kills snails or slugs
    Second, moist corn meal is what you feed snails several days before you eat them in order to clean the insides out. Try beer in a shallow pan or comerical pellets


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