Slug traps: which options actually work & how to make them


As a child, I played every day in the garden in front of my house in my home town of Rheinlandpflanz. There, my interest in nature grew, as did my aspirations to become a natural scientist. I now study horticultural phytotechnology and am currently writing my bachelor’s thesis on the topic of crop protection in orchards. Since living Berlin, I have become particularly interested in improving the quality of life in cities with the help of plants.

Favourite fruit: figs, passion fruit, berries, limes and oranges.
Favourite vegetables: potatoes, garlic, tomatoes, pickles, lamb’s lettuce and rocket.

Nobody likes to find slugs and snails in the flower bed. Read on to find hints and tips on a variety of slug and snail traps.

Slugs on a wet log
Slugs can often be found on wet wood [Photo: Ja Crispy/]

Slugs and snails gleefully feast in the lush beds of hardworking gardeners. In order to still get something from the harvest itself, it is advisable to set up slug traps. This is quite simple, especially if you know what slugs like: protection from predators and from dehydration. Traps that offer these two baits work best. In some models, the slugs can be collected alive, and in others they die.

Tip: in the spring, snail traps are generally most effective, because here the other food supply is still low, and you prevent the emergence of a large population of snails.

Slug traps: advantages and disadvantages

Slug traps can be divided into live and poison traps.

Live traps

Live traps aim to attract slugs and snails with scents or provide them with an attractive shelter. From there, they can be collected and relocated to a new habitat. The problem with this is that the snails may return to you or your neighbours. On the other hand, it is good that no animal is tortured and no beneficial insects such as housing snails are harmed.

However, overly strong attractants like beer only attract more of the creepy crawlies. Cooked food could attract unwanted rats. Live traps are quickly and easily built yourself – we explain how a little later. Since snail traps are often not very visually appealing, some variants can even be buried in the ground.

Banana slug on rotting wood
An old damp tree stump or piece of wood makes a great humane slug trap [Photo: Working Title Productions/]

Poison Traps

When using poison bait the slugs die, which permanently eliminates them. In addition, scattered slug pellets in the bed are relatively inconspicuous. However, the duration of the effect depends on the weather. Metaldehyde-based slug pellets have now been banned in the UK as they are harmful to the environment and also endanger other animals and small children. Pellets containing ferric phosphate are still available and pose no risk to humans, plants, soil microorganisms or garden wildlife or pets.

At a glance: advantages and disadvantages of snail traps

  • Live traps: Insensitive to weather and can be made by yourself, but there is no reliable slug removal.
  • Poison traps with ferric phosphate: Reliable slug control, gentle on pets and beneficial insects, insensitive to weathering, but cannot be made by yourself.

Tip: for a 100m2 garden you need about 20 to 30 snail traps. As for location, choose places under dense bushes, perennials and ground covers, especially at the edge of the garden, precisely where the snails like to stay.

Beer trap for slugs: does it really work?

It is not a great idea, because beer has an enormously strong attraction to slugs and snails. They can smell the yeast from the beer from a distance of up to 200m. This seems practical at first. But this also attracts slugs and snails from a wide radius, which otherwise would not have come to the garden at all. Therefore, it is better to avoid beer traps.

Slug inspecting a beer trap
Beer slug traps are not recommended, as they only attract more slugs into the garden [Photo: Martina Unbehauen/]

How to build your own slug trap

If you want to build a slug trap, keep in mind the following: slugs love it dark, damp and warm. Food is an added bonus that, of course, no snail would turn down. Molluscs are best attracted with moderate attractants from plant parts that snails like to eat. Effective are lettuce, cabbage, strawberries, apples and some other fruits. Kitchen scraps can be used, but nothing that has been cooked or seasoned, otherwise rats will be attracted. In addition, ornamental plants such as marigolds or dahlias are used. Moist wheat bran is also recommended.

Below you will learn how to make your own slug trap from home remedies.

Dark and humid oases

Slugs and snails consist of almost 90% water. It is therefore essential that they protect themselves from dehydration. Now where is the best place to do that? Of course, in a dark and damp place! So, give the slimy fellows a welcoming shelter. You can do this, for example, by placing a moistened wooden board, preferably with grooves, in a shady spot. There, the snails will soon settle and can be removed. In a slightly sunnier location, a moistened wooden board on the ground with some space underneath can also serve as a hiding place for snails. A moistened tree stump in the shade is equally attractive. The advantage of this method is that it really does not take much effort or cost to set up a hiding place.

Tip: the entry ports into such containers should be small, only about 1cm in diameter. In this way, if possible, no housing snails can get inside.

Slug on a tree trunk
Slugs like to hide in hollowed out, damp tree trunks [Photo: Luke Georgiou/]

A live trap: collection containers

Live traps for snails are collection containers into which the little animals easily and gladly enter, but only with difficulty or reluctantly leave again. Snails avoid brightness, because it is associated with predators and with solar radiation leading to desiccation. That is why the centre of the trap is dark, while the way out becomes brighter and brighter. There is thus a clear reason for the snails to remain in the trap.

You can collect snails in different containers. A popular option is to make a snail trap out of a milk carton. To do this, rinse the box properly, remove the lid, fill it with kitchen waste as previously described and off into the garden with it. With the opening facing up, it is best to dig it a little into the ground. Of course, other tetra packs can also be used, as well as other containers that create a humid and dark environment. The opening should be large enough for snails but prevent the entry of larger animals. It is recommended to collect molluscs before dusk and change the location of the trap every two to four days.

Important: intense attractants such as beer or brewer’s yeast should be avoided at all costs, as these also attract numerous snails from a long distance.

Slugs feasting on kitchen compost
Kitchen scraps invite slugs to feast [Photo: Tomas Vynikal/]

Collecting trap with slug pellets

Snail traps can also be equipped with slug pellets instead of kitchen scraps. Such traps are made a little differently.

To avoid contact of the slug grains with the soil, the grains can be sprinkled and glued, for example, in crown caps. For stability, the cork should then be glued to a base. Cover the base with the snail corks with a dark shell, like those found on food packaging such as yoghurt pots. However, small openings must be cut in the cup for the snails to enter. These should be about 1cm in diameter – large enough for slugs, but not shell snails, to fit through. Where the danger of snail feeding is greatest, the traps are placed: Between new plantings or other varieties that are particularly susceptible. It is also essential to place bait stations in typical habitats, for example ground cover such as cushion shrubs or natural stone walls. After two to four days, we recommend changing the location of the trap.

Two crown caps
Bottle caps can serve as containers for slug pellets [Photo: Michelle Lee Photography/]

Alternatives to slug traps

For those who do not want to place any of the above described snail traps in their garden, there are other options for snail protection.

Slug pellets

A widely used remedy are slug pellets. In the past, they usually contained the active ingredients methiocarb or metaldehyde, but these are no longer permitted in the UK due to their negative impact on the environment, garden wildlife and pets.

Better, and even approved in organic farming, is the active ingredient ferric phosphate. Snails that ingest this agent stop feeding, retreat to their hiding place and defecate. There is no danger for other animals or humans. This is converted over time into the nutrient elements iron and phosphate and is completely harmless to the soil and environment.

What to consider in detail when applying the grain, you can learn in our special article about slug pellets.

Plants against snails

There are a lot of plants that snails and slugs dislike. These include herbs such as wild garlic (Allium ursinum), common thistle (Origanum vulgare), or thyme (Thymus spec.). But bait plants such as marigolds (Tagetes) or delphiniums (Delphinium spec.) also keep slugs away from fruits and vegetables.

Snail fences

Snail fences can also be used as a physical barrier. Snail fences should be anchored at least 10cm deep in the ground and be equally 10cm high. It is important that no plant parts protrude over the fence and that the snails are collected regularly, preferably every evening after dusk. Coffee grounds against slugs can be used as another barrier.

Encourage natural predators

Natural predators decimate slug infestations. These include many birds such as magpies, blackbirds or starlings and also hedgehogs, shrews, toads and slow worms. Those who provide a natural habitat for these animals make their work in plant protection easier. To do this, create piles of leaves for hiding or hedges and shrubs for nesting sites.

A thrush eating a slug
Thrushes love to eat slugs [Photo: IHX/]

Right mulching and watering

Mulch should prevent beds from drying out. However, damp wood and bark are also popular with slugs. Therefore, to keep snails out of the bed, it should not be mulched. Regular watering every two to three days, or more often in particularly hot weather, if necessary, is therefore more likely to counteract a slug infestation than mulch. In addition, with irrigation, the timing is crucial. Morning watering is beneficial, as the soil can dry until the evening appearance of slugs. Thus, these find an area that is less appealing to them.

Slug on wet woodchips
Beds should not be mulched if there are many slugs in the garden [Photo: Patrick Hampton/]

Combat snails in time

In the autumn or early spring, the next generation of slugs can be prevented from growing by destroying their pinhead-sized eggs. They can be found by the hundreds in nests in the ground, but also under planters, moss, mulch, loose stones, between paving slabs, and in piles of leaves. Gardeners get help with removal from the Roman snail and the tiger snail, because these eat the eggs of other snails. Similarly, the clutch can be positioned exposed to the sun, so that they dry up. The remains are consumed by birds and hedgehogs.

Slug eggs under soil
Slug eggs are found in damp and dark places in the garden [Photo: Hans Verburg/]

If you care about the environment and animals, it is sometimes not so easy to protect plants. You get some support from the plants themselves, because some are not at all tasty to slugs. What plants you can cultivate in your garden without fear of slug infestation, you can learn from our article on slug resistant plants.