How to Get Rid of Slugs with Beer

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Robert Pavlis

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:

YouTube video

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.

Soil Science for Gardeners book by Robert Pavlis

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?

YouTube video

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

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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!

85 thoughts on “How to Get Rid of Slugs with Beer”

  1. 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

    Reply
  2. 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 !

    Reply
  3. 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!

    Reply
  4. 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.

    Reply
    • You are quite right. They don’t die from drinking beer, but maybe with a belly full of beer they are too full to eat hostas.

      Reply
  5. 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,

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  6. 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?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
      • 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

        Reply
        • 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.

          Reply
  7. 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 ???

    Reply
  8. 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!!!

    Reply
  9. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
      • 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.

        Reply
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