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How to kill slugs and snails

So. You're fed up with the slugs and snails that you want them dead. How do you do that in a responsible way? And what works and what doesn't?  
A slug closing in on my basil plants
I've written about them before: slugs and snails. What can you do to fight them off, how can you lure and trap them, and how do you stop them?

This page covers the last resort:

Killing slugs and snails

"What? Kill them? Come on, Jelle. Live and let live!"

Yes, yes, I know. My thoughts exactly.

But many eco-conscious gardeners and small-scale farmers make an exception for slugs. And not just because they hate seeing their lettuces all chewed up.

So, if you have a problem with this idea, read this page. I'm pretty sure you'll change your mind.

Okay, you ready? These are the different ways you can kill slugs and snails:

Beer traps

They work like this: snails are attracted to beer. They climb into the trap, drink their fill, can't get out, and die from drowning in the beer. Maybe not the worst way to go 😉 
Zelfgemaakte bierval
A DIY beer trap made from a to-go cup
This page about luring slugs shows you how to make these traps yourself.

Throw the dead slugs in a corner of your garden. Birds and other slug-eaters will be happy to eat them.

The downside to beer traps? You may also catch some slug-eating beetles too by accident.

Slug pellets with ferric phosphate

Another option is slug pellets.
Een paar Escar-go slakkenkorrels onder de courgette
A sprinkling of slug pellets under my zucchini

The iron phosphate in the pellets damages digestive tissue. The slugs can no longer eat, so they retreat and die in 2 to 4 days.

These pellets aren't harmful to humans or any other animals - not even if they eat the affected snails. So, this method is accepted generally accepted by organic farmers.

My experience with these pellets is that it does help, but not enough.

The reviews on say the same:

  • My slug infestation is so bad that I'm not seeing results from these pellets. I regularly tossed in more, but these pests are still happily crawling around! 
  • There are fewer slugs but they're not completely gone
  • You have to do another round again after every rain
  • This stuff works well. Use them only when it is dry out, otherwise it seems they're not as effective 

Slug pellets with metaldehyde or methiocarb

⚠️Do not buy or use these pellets. EVER. Not even during the worst slug infestations! ⚠️

These are highly toxic pellets that not only kill all slugs and snails, but also the birds and hedgehogs that eat the pellets or the poisoned slugs.

Your kids can get really sick from them. Dogs and earthworms also like to eat the pellets and can die from them. 

Nematodes for slugs

Nematodes are like tiny eels. They're parasitic to slugs: they hunt them down in the soil, enter their bodies, and reproduce there. 
The parasitized slug stops eating and dies. Mother nature is so hardcore.

Nematodes have an easy time of it because slugs live in or under the soil during the day.

Using nematodes is 100% organic and sustainable. They only work on slugs and won't harm your plants, other animals, your kids or you.

Personally, I think it's a hassle to put the nematodes in water, dilute it, and then sprinkle it over my garden boxes. The whole process takes about half an hour.

After that, it takes less than a week for them into infect the slugs. But they continue eating my plants those first few days.

Nematodes are pretty expensive, and you have to repeat the treatment every 6 to 8 weeks 😐

Go hunting yourself

You can also actively hunt for slugs and snails yourself. It's best to do this at night with a flashlight: that's when they become active.

You'll get even better results with a couple of traps. You can find tips on this page.

If you follow the advice of the eco-conscious gardeners, you'll kill every slug or snail you catch. And no, it doesn't have to be sadistic or depressing. You can do it quickly and painlessly. Killing them right away gets you through it quicker, while poison pellets and nematodes drag it out.

How do you kill them?

Real die-hards cut them in half with sharp scissors (🤢). If you can't bring yourself to do that, you can instead drown them in beer, sugar water, or boiling water. Or place them in a Tupperware container with a lid and put that in the freezer.

(In any case, don't throw them in salt water. That's too nasty).

What do you do with them after that?

Then you put the dead slugs in a corner of your garden. Hungry birds, hedgehogs, toads and ground beetles will be happy you did. And after a while, you won't have to kill them anymore: they'll do it for you 🤗

Good luck!

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