The Only Good Slug Is a Dead Slug

Over the last few weeks I’ve been on a relentless crusade to eradicate slugs from our yard.

I should point out that typically I don’t enjoy killing anything. I’m filled with guilt when I swish a spider down a drain. I mourn when I find a mouse in a trap. I hesitate before flattening a fly. When I find stink bugs or moths inside, I take them outside and release them. Once upon a time, this reluctance to kill applied to slugs as well. They’re almost cute, with their dainty little horns. Their slow glide along the ground is nearly graceful as they prowl in search of food. And occasionally I’ll discover one with lovely bright colors — so close to being pretty. When we first moved to Oregon, living in a rental house with a small yard and no garden, I called Niko over to watch in amazement as a large orange-spotted slug devoured a blade of grass. I thought of them as harmless.

Sliming along a raised garden bed.
Sliming along a raised garden bed.

But now? Now I am filled with a deep passion of hatred for these destructive nibblers. Last year I saw slug-holes in my nasturtiums and basil, oregano and baby cucumbers, and I was sad. But this year, witnessing the chunks eaten out of the tops of hyacinth buds, new dwarf irises, and baby daffodils, I am enraged. Those slimy thieves are going down.

Slug-eaten iris. Last straw!
Slug-eaten iris. Last straw!

So, a couple of weeks ago, as you can read here, I set out both cornmeal and a honey-yeast mixture in jars throughout the garden, and waited.

The cornmeal was immediately effective. The slugs loved it. They didn’t seem to be immediately incapacitated by it, but they were distracted from the plants and easy to catch. The side of the jar acted as an umbrella, keeping the cornmeal dry — until we got a driving rain that splashed in. After that, it was less effective. My gardening New England aunt told me the cornmeal needs to be dry in order to catch the slugs, and the evidence in my garden certainly supports that. It seems that both water and slime from previous slugs renders the cornmeal an ineffective trap. I picked up some more cornmeal in the bulk section of the grocery store, both a coarse polenta/grits grind and a finer grind (I plan to mix them), so I’ll be making new traps soon.

Why does the cornmeal work? My knowledgeable aunt explained that, in order to move over the rough, dry cornmeal, the slugs have to produce more and more slime, so much so that they become dehydrated. Result: dead slugs.

At first, the yeast mixture was less successful. I followed the instructions in the article I’d read, boiling honey and yeast together, despite my worry that killing the yeast by boiling it would make it unattractive to the slugs. I was right. They weren’t interested in the least in the one jar I put out that first day. So, I sprinkled fresh yeast on top of the mixture that still filled the pitcher, and waited a day or so till it began to foam gently and smell pleasantly yeasty (it wouldn’t have taken so long if I’d had more yeast). I refilled the jar I’d set out and then placed more jars throughout the gardens. By the time I’d finished the last jar, the first jar already had its first prey. Victory. Next time I do this, I’ll add the yeast after the hot honey water has cooled, and add more than the small pinch I sprinkled in after the initial failed experiment — I was out of yeast when I refreshed the pitcher, but I now have a new jar.

The yeast and honey mixture works like a charm.
The yeast and honey mixture works like a charm.

Meanwhile, since my aunt told me to NEVER squish slugs in the garden for fear of releasing eggs into the soil, I’ve been carrying around a disgusting jar of salt water into which I drop any slug I encounter while weeding or planting or just strolling. It’s gross, but I don’t care. This is war.

Death to slugs. The only good slug is a dead slug!

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6 thoughts on “The Only Good Slug Is a Dead Slug

  1. I just collect them in the evening, and go until I have a hundred in my bucket of salty doom. After a few days it’s quite hard to find that much, because they’re squished in the salty bucket of doom (another bucket). I actually started to like the sight of their decomposing bodies.

    This rotten, decayed mixture of salted slug bodies is then an excellent addition to the compost heap. It’s not too salty, but nicely salty, and has a pleasant, egg-white goopy consistency.

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  2. What a great idea. I’m going to dig through my cupboards for cornmeal! We were actually pretty good with not having slugs around but this past week, we found at least 10 of them in one of our raised beds. 😦

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    1. The only drawback with the cornmeal is you have to be prepared to take them out of the trap! I haven’t emptied the yeast ones yet, mainly because I’m not sure how/where to dump them. Toilet?

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