Gardening is wonderfully unpredictable. Each year, it is different. We move things around in the garden. We grow different crops. Summer may be hotter than years past. Or perhaps Mother Nature has opened up the heavens and sent down rain by the buckets. If it is the latter, I know that there will be one pest in abundance. Gardeners, I am talking about slugs.
Believe it or not, not every gardener has to deal with slugs. The slugs themselves tend to prefer damp/moist conditions. If you are in an arid environment, they may only make an appearance during a particularly wet season. Elsewhere, they are an unwanted, frequent visitor. But before you head out to your local nursery or garden center to pick up harsh chemicals consider driving to your local liquor store first. My favorite approach? Beer. The cheaper, the better. Oh… the beer is not for me, it is for the slugs. Or more specifically, the homemade slug traps.
Now before you think that I am just setting out an open bar for the local slug population, there is a method to my madness. You see, beer works very well as a bait for homemade slug traps. It is the yeast and carbohydrates in the beer that attracts them according to wikiHow.
How to Prepare the Beer Slug Traps
- Pour beer into a container that is approximately 1″ high. Empty tuna cans work well as do lids for Rubbermaid or Tupperware containers that you lost long ago. If you choose to go with a much deeper container, partially bury the container, leaving the top about 1″ above the soil surface. But pour the beer into the containers during the cool part of the day, such as dusk. If you fill the traps during a hot afternoon, a good portion of the beer may evaporate before it has a chance to attract slugs.
- Since you are not enjoying the beer, use a very cheap brand (save the micro-brews for yourself).
- Place the traps close to plants that the slugs are snacking on such as hosta, lettuce, spinach, or other leafy plants. If you have a large infestation, you can place a beer trap approximately every 3′ – 4′ along the effected plants.
- Check the traps in the morning.
- Collect and dispose of the slugs and/or snails. If you have chickens, they will go crazy for these boozy slug treats!
- If you have animals that roam through the garden during the day, pick up the slug traps and set them aside until dusk. If you don’t, you may go through the beer more quickly than expected. For instance, our neighborhood fox was in the backyard one summer afternoon. It went through its usual routine, check the perimeter of the chicken run, snack on ripe raspberries, then stroll around the garden. However, when it came across a beer trap, it stopped, sniffed, and drank. After draining the first trap, Mr. Fox proceeded on to every remaining beer trap and drank them dry. We also found out that our chickens were fond of beer and would drink from the traps when the hens had free-range time in the backyard.
- Refill traps as needed.
You may ask yourself if this method is going to catch every single slug in your garden. The answer is no. Some slugs may crawl to the brim of the container, take a sip of beer and leave. Yes. Leave. However, there will be slugs that crawl into the slug trap and drown… staying in place until you dispose of them. Is this method effective? Yes. Is it non-toxic? Yes. Are the traps easy to set up? Yes. Could you end up with a tipsy fox or chicken? Perhaps. But for the sake of a natural control method, I am willing to let Mr. Fox or Henny Penny sip some suds.