Oh Slugs, How I Hate You.

Oh slugs, how I hate you.  Really.


pic from uspest.org

Yes, we used to get along.  Me, just picking you off and tossing you elsewhere. You, getting some good bites of my veggies.  Peaceful co-existence. I didn’t mind a bit of your nibbling on my greens here and there because you knew when to stop.

But no more.  You’ve gone too far this time.  We are through.

Your destruction tally?

  • 9/10 pepper plants
  • 4/4 eggplants
  • 8/9 varieties of pole/bush beans (each variety had about 6 plants each, all but the 1 variety have been decimated.  This was the second sowing/attempt.
  • 9/9 varieties of pole/bush beans (again, multiple plants each).  This was the first sowing.
  • 4 cilantro
  • 4 dill
  • 2 parsley
  • they are starting to get at my strawberries.
seattle slug damage

See what I'm talking about? Agh.

I am mad as hell.

I don’t know what the deal is but Seattle seems infested with slugs this year and every gardener I have talked to is having a mammoth problem. Maybe it has to do with the mild winter-wet spring we’ve had.  Our large U-shaped raised beds are the hardest hit.

Slug stats (that just might keep you up at night):

  • can eat their own body weight daily (this can translate into about 1.75 lbs of your good garden eating in a 20 week period!)
  • Slugs have both male & female reproductive organs so every slug can lay eggs.
  • A mature slug will lay 400 eggs per year.
  • A cubic yard of your garden can contain up to 200 slugs.  Umm, gross.

What to do?

Since I am in Seattle and there is no shortage of coffee shops with bags of spent coffee grounds free for the taking, I used up some of my stash and surrounded each seedling with coffee grounds.  Supposedly, they don’t like this.  Ours crawled over like it was a hand engraved invitation.

I have beer traps all over.  They actually work.  But not well enough.

slugs seattle beer traps

See? They love it!

I am handpicking them and tossing them to the chickens.  The chickens love it.  But there are just.so.fricking.many.  The tiny 1/4-1/2″ little suckers that are out during day or dusk are hard to pick.


The majority (which is about 3.6 million or so) of our slugs look more like this little guy. Don't be fooled by the small, innocent appearance. S/he will strip your seedling to the ground. (photo by Laura Jesse @ Iowa State University Extension)

Tonight I went out with the flashlight and met a lot of these:

slugs seattle

S/he wasn't even the biggest! The biggest several I kept 'assisting' into the beer trap and they would climb back out! Yes, climb out. So I chucked them in the street. Bye-bye suckers!


  • Too late to do peppers again by seed so I’ll have to buy starts. Argh.
  • There are a few weeks left to plant beans, cilantro, parsley and dill-so I am going to let it dry up a bit (please!?) and do a final sowing.
  • I’m not convinced they haven’t decimated my summer squash either so I’ll do another sowing of them.
  • I’m going to devise some kind of copper barrier around the seedlings.
  • Keep on with the beer traps and picking.
seattle slug


PS-To be fair, not everyone hates slugs though.  There is even a poster that makes them seem sort of cool.  You won’t ever find this poster in my house.

slug chart

Making slugs look kinda cool

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34 Responses to Oh Slugs, How I Hate You.

  1. ap269 says:

    In Germany, there are these thingies called “Schneckenkragen” (slug collar). Check here to see what they look like. They might help you. My raised bed has a giant slug collar all around and it seems to be helping this year!

  2. Looks great- do you fill it with anything? How does it keep the slugs out? What is the big one made out of that keeps the slugs at bay?
    Thanks for sharing!

    • ap269 says:

      When you look at this picture you might be able to see that the construction of the collar makes it impossible for the slugs to overcome the rim because of the sharp edges. Same goes for the anti-slug rim of my raised bed. Here’s a link to a description on how to make your own slug collar from used plastic bottles.

    • ap269 says:

      Oh, and another possibility to get rid of slugs is to have runner ducks. They LOVE slugs!

  3. taylorgirl6 says:

    Some people think it’s cruel, but salt fizzles their little mucous bodies into piles of gelatenous goo. It’s just a thought. Also, I’ve heard some people have luck taking egg shells and crushing them, then placing them around plants. They slowly add calcium and magnesium back into the soil, and they’re sharp on tender slug bellies. As for the copper, I once trained a whole herd of slugs to withstand the momentary pain for the reward of juicy seedlings. I wouldn’t bother. I’m with ap269. Indian runner ducks are hilarious to watch. They look like a wine bottle with a bill. I so want one. If you get one, I can live vicariously through your experiences.

  4. Inder says:

    ME TOO! And I don’t even live in the sluggiest part of the world (that blessing falls on you). Tally so far: 2 pepper plants; 7 (seriously, 7) basil plants; unknown quantity of sunflower sprouts; 2 cucumbers.

    I don’t do any poisons, because you know, dogs and children, etc. I don’t do beer because my dogs just drink it or knock it over or whatever. What sort of seems to work okay for us (don’t get your hopes up, but it does help a bit) is sprinkling ash all around the plants. Apparently the slugs don’t love the gritty texture. We have a chiminea that we use to burn trimmings and roast marshmallows in, so we always have lots of ash. You have to refresh it after it rains (probably not as big a deal for me as for you).

    Despite that, we have STILL lost a lot of seedlings this year. The local slug population seems to think we are planting basil and peppers just for them. Like, “Hey, thanks for replenishing our supply! How thoughtful of you!”

  5. Travel Mommy says:

    We haven’t had that many this year, but I have seen plants decimated overnight by those things. Do you remember Doug going out in the back yard with a salt shaker and attacking the slugs? How true about dogs and pesticides – we had a big vet bill with our dog years ago!! We almost lost Fritz.

  6. I looked up the ducks and they are awesome looking! I wonder if they would get along with the chickens? Hmmm….anyone know if they would eat up my plants?

    ap269- thanks for the links! sounds great!
    Robin-dare i ask why you were training slugs to withstand copper zings? =) I should try the eggshells with my next round of seedlings! Oh- and I heard you are going to Temple Grandin next week also! Cool! It will be nice to meet you!
    Inder- argh….they are pains! ash seems like it would work. I read yesterday that they don’t like the smell of rosemary so I might try some branches of that as well around the seedlings.
    Mom- ah, poor Fritz! What a sweetie he was!

    • ap269 says:

      I’ve read that it’s totally fine to have runner ducks AND chickens, you should have separate coops, though, as the ducks like their coop wet and the chickens prefer dry.

    • taylorgirl6 says:

      Training slugs is a secretive art. If I explained my methods and reasoning, I’d have to kill you. Sorry. And yes, I and my better 3/4 will be there next Friday. Glad to hear you will be, too!

  7. Inder says:

    Don’t chickens like to eat slugs too? Of course, they also like the eat the rest of the garden, so I’ve never been able to determine how useful they would be in this regard. Thoughts?

  8. Inder- the chickens love the slugs…however I’m not letting them loose in the garden because I can’t capture them when I need them back in the run. We have a lot of raccoons too.
    I think I need to clip there wings (I think? chicken people- opinions?) and then I’ll let them out there with me when I am gardening. I let one out yesterday and she was catching bees, worms and rolypoly bugs and generally have a lovely time of it all!

    Now that I have seen the indian runner ducks however… i must have 1. No, i must have 2. Adorable.

    Robin- you are too funny!

    • redrem333 says:

      Hi, We have chickens and if they get out or if we allow them out of their pen, we leave the door open. They tend to go back in so they may roost at about dusk, they do not see well in the dark. Just close the door. You may have an escape issue occaisionally, or they scatter if startled, but they usually go back to their pen a.s.a.p. They roost nearby if they miss the closing of the door. My best wishes to you.

      • Thanks redrem333- I ended up leaving them out free range most of the rest of summer and they figured it out. Now that it rainy fall/winter in Seattle they are in more.

  9. Julia says:

    Ducks and chickens cohabitate just fine, and can live in the same coop, but the ducks well, it’s not so much that they like it wet, but they make it really wet. You know what I mean? That said, slugs are so gross. Thankfully, we are pretty safe of them. So far.

  10. Just south of you and completely and totally understand and sympathize with your hatred for slugs! Peppers, eggplant, even my garlic is infested with the nasty creatures.

    I have tried everything and still they keep coming….like a zombie army that comes out at night and will not be stopped!

  11. I have so many slugs and they make me feel queezy…. thanks to everyone for all the great suggestions….

  12. Anne says:

    Diatomaceous Earth will help. It is basically crushed up fossilized diatoms. It is very sharp to them, but also dries them out which is why they avoid it. It is similar in concept as salt (which draws moisture out of them and triggers their mucus glands to go in overdrive so they kind of implode).. except it is harmless to plants and critters.

    Copper also works because in short it creates a electrical current. Beer traps have to be deep enough for them to be effective.. but even then like what you had.. some aren’t lushes.

    We also had a slug explosion where I am at. Normally I would just see a few the whole season and just last night I plucked over 60 of them off my plants and then ran to find my diatomaceous earth. Only need a light dusting around the plant.

    Oh and eggshells.. do nothing. Not sharp enough and they are primarily calcium carbonate.. so no reaction and the slugs just crawl right over. Good for the garden in general, but not an effective slug deterrent. Someone mentioned ducks ..they are crazy for slugs.

    Coffee grounds don’t seem to stop them either. After brewing they are pretty much neutral ph and my garden has tons of grounds in it.. as well as tons of slugs. Good luck to ya!

  13. Great overview Anne! Thanks! I’ll have to try the DE…I think I need to get some for the chickens anyhow!

  14. tabbycat says:

    try using the slug bell, it works well keeping slugs from the plants

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  16. Barbara says:

    I can confirm that slug collars work – but nothing else does, at least on my slugs. Not coffee grounds, ashes, copper, eggshells, etc. Another method that helps a little is to raise the plants to a fairly mature size indoors or in a protected greenhouse before planting them outside. This worked with my tomatoes and summer squash. And there are varieties of lettuce (lamb’s lettuce, red leaf lettuce) that they leave alone. If you’re interested, I wrote a post in my blog on my experiments with which plants attract slugs and which ones don’t.

  17. Barbara says:

    P.S. I need to have that poster! Where can you get it? I couldn’t find it by googling. Thanks.

  18. Barbara- I’ll look at your post…sounds great! I just googled slug images and it came up somewhere….I am not finding it now though. Hmm.
    The slug collars I started last year seem to be working pretty well. I am trialing a different copper method from someone else that seems to be working too.
    The slugs are frustrating for sure!!

  19. Sheila says:

    I live in Seattle too —

    My question is — how the heck do they sneak through my sliding door and slime across my kitchen floor.

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  24. Sue Mcfetridge says:

    hi there i was jus looking through your page and thought i’d ask if you tried the Slug Bell?

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