Are Slugs Good For Plants? {Preventation & Eradication}

Are slugs good for your garden plants? Sometimes. When a healthy population is maintained and monitored, these slimy creatures can be beneficial to your garden and the local ecosystem by providing fertilizer, feeding good insects and birds and even providing free protein for your ducks and chickens. Too many, however, will decimate your vegetables and other plants. Let’s examine how to prevent and eradicate garden slugs naturally.

slug crawling on green leaf close up

How Slugs Can Help Your Plants

When a healthy population is maintained and closely monitored, these little creatures can be beneficial to your garden and the local ecosystem.

Garden slugs love dining on dead and rotting leaves, flowers, and other organic waste in your garden. Their feces make a fertilizer that will nourish the plants in your garden. This fertilizer has nitrogen and minerals needed to help your plants thrive.

In addition to the benefits they can directly provide your garden, slugs are great for attracting other beneficial life to your garden.

They are a healthy food source for certain birds, frogs, toads, and insects. If you have ducks, they will gobble up the slugs with great enthusiasm and so will your chickens.

Keeping this food chain intact can support populations of these beneficial species right in your backyard while providing free protein to your own animals.

How Slugs Can Hurt Your Plants

Though these animals are small, they’re capable of doing a large amount of damage to your plants.

This is especially true when your garden is suffering from a garden slug infestation. Slugs will quickly ruin harvests, nibbling holes in all of the fruits and vegetables in the garden, and leave a visual blight on your plants and produce alike.

Slug damage can be harmful to vulnerable plants such as any new seedlings and sprouts in your garden, which can turn into a huge obstacle as you try to keep your plants alive.

Slugs are an extremely frustrating pest because of how easily they can wreak havoc.

green leaves of plant full of holes from slug damage
An example of the damage slugs will leave in your garden.

What Do Slugs Eat?

While it might seem that these pests only eat the best crops in your garden, slugs naturally have a wide and varied diet that even includes a few favorites.

They tend to prioritize certain foods first, including seedlings and sprouts, dead and rotting leaves, flowers, fruits, and other produce like peas, lettuce, and basil.

Slugs will avoid certain garden plants, such as catmint, lavender, and garlic, among others. If you want to avoid having slugs eat your entire harvest, there are many delicious and slug-proof plants to choose from.

You can also use certain plants to deter slugs from your garden.

beige slug on dry rotting leaves
Slugs will also eat dead and rotting leaves and vegetation.

Slugs Reproduce Quickly

Even if your garden has a low population of slugs, it can quickly explode into an uncontrollable problem.

Slugs can lay hundreds of eggs per year, typically in large clusters under dead plant matter or in soil. These eggs hatch and grow into adult slugs extremely quickly, and in no time at all several generations of slugs can propagate in your garden and infest it.

Slugs are capable of reproducing asexually, which only contributes further to how easily their population can get out of control.

Additionally, slug slime trails can attract other slugs to your garden, which can make the situation even worse. If you’re looking to keep slugs out of your garden, then even one slug is too many.

beige slug on dry rotting leaves

How To Prevent Infestations

While slugs can be difficult and destructive pests, it’s worth trying to repel them naturally from your garden as they’re still an important part of the local ecosystem.

Poisoning or killing slugs means risking losing your local beneficial wildlife like birds and beneficial insects that rely on the slugs as a food source.

Slug bodies are sensitive and soft, and due to this, they will avoid anything that irritates or harms their skin.

Sprinkling sharp shards of crushed eggshells, diamatecous earth, sand, or coffee grounds around your garden can be an effective way to control slugs.

You can also lay copper wire or tape around your plants, as it can result in a shock for any slug that attempts to cross over it.

Removing plant debris such as dead plants, leaves, and mulch can also make your garden less inviting to this garden pest.

Slugs are attracted to damp soil, and they like to lay their eggs there as well. Removing standing water and keeping your garden reasonably dry can help get rid of the slug population, or at least make it more manageable.

Beige slug crawling up wooden raised beds
Your raised beds are no match for hungry slugs.

How To Get Rid Of Garden Slugs

If trying to deter slugs from your garden hasn’t worked for you, or if there’s already a large population chomping on your plants, there are some effective and natural ways to get rid of these pests.

From methods like hand picking these little guys off to a good old-fashioned slug trap, to attracting their natural predators, these strategies should work for you and your garden.

Natural Barriers

There are many ways you can naturally deter slugs from your garden.

For example, they’re warded off by plants like daylilies, strongly scented herbs like rosemary and fennel, and oddly shaped plants like succulents.

You can add substrates like wood chips, gravel, or sand that slugs have trouble crossing, and apply copper adhesives around your plants or plant beds.

cabbage plant decimated by slugs

Plant Traps

An effective and natural way to get rid of slugs is to put plant traps in your garden.

To start, you have to plant something that slugs are attracted to, like basil, lettuce, or peas. The slugs will be attracted to these plants and choose to eat from them first.

You can place the majority of your slug traps around these plants, and with so many slugs nearby you’ll be able to eradicate many of them.

Additionally, you can plant slug-attracting plants in areas of your garden far away from the crops you’d like to protect.

While adding traps is still a good idea to ensure that they don’t lay eggs and spread any further, this will buy you time and keep your harvests safe for long enough that you can address a slug problem early.

Manual Removal

Removing slugs by hand or using other methods like slug bait traps can be a great way to get rid of slugs. The best time to find slugs is right after sunset, bringing a flashlight or headlamp along so that you can easily spot the slugs. As you find them, you can pluck them off your plants and anywhere else you may find them. You can then take them far away, or kill them yourself through squashing, cutting, or other methods. 

two white muscovy ducks
Muscovy ducks are amazing at slug and pest control.

Put Your Ducks & Chickens To Work

Your ducks and chickens will eat your slugs!

ESPECIALLY your ducks.

As an added bonus, ducks won’t scratch up your garden like chickens and they will gul them down whole.

We raise Welsh Harlequin, Saxony, Muscovy, Cayuga, and soon Silver Appleyard ducks and they are the most phenomenal pest control out of all.

Support Slug Predators

Don’t have ducks or chickens?

There are many ways that you can attract natural predators of slugs and keep their population under control.

There are many good predators of slugs, including the ground beetle, hedgehogs, toads and frogs, lizards, shrews, birds, snakes, and opossums.

Allowing these animals to prey on the snails in a natural process can also help to ward off other pests, and it is healthier for the land than using pesticides to eradicate wildlife.

To support slug predators, you can offer indigenous plants and wildlife in wild corners of your garden. You can make this area attractive to the slugs by planting things they love to eat and leaving ‘safe’ places for the slugs like piles of stones and leaves.

The other wildlife knows that they can find slugs in these places, and they will quickly root them out and eat them. 

slug crawling up herbs

Grapefruit Traps

Grapefruit traps are made with half of a grapefruit or other citrus fruit and are a simple and effective way to trap live slugs.

To start, you can simply eat half of the grapefruit and keep the intact half rind. After you place this in your garden upside down with just enough room for insects to crawl inside, slugs will come to the pleasant-smelling trap and use it as a hiding place.

Each morning, you can lift the trap and capture the slugs.

This is a great way to get rid of slugs since in both cases your local wildlife is still able to eat these pests.

large beige slug on grass

Beer Traps

Beer traps are another way to eradicate slugs.

These traps are useful whenever you get an infestation because the slugs are attracted to the smell of yeast in the beer.

They particularly like the smell of darker beers. 

To make this trap, clean out a shallow container and stick it in the dirt or soil with around an inch of the container protruding above the soil. You can then fill the container with a beer of your choice and wait for the slugs to come.

These traps will need to be placed around every 3 feet to be fully successful. The only drawback is that beer traps are more expensive compared to alternatives.

large black slug on rotting wood

Are Slugs Good For My Garden?

While slugs can be harmful to the plants in your garden and frustrating to deal with, they can also be beneficial to local wildlife and provide some free protein to your own ducks and chickens!

As with other garden creatures, the best strategy is to keep an eye on their population and take measures to reduce it as necessary. When their population is at normal levels, you’ll likely notice the presence of beneficial birds and insects — and this is worth the extra work to maintain!

Slugs can be beneficial in controlled populations since their poop fertilizes plants and they frequently eat dead plant matter around your garden. In this way, they can be excellent cleaners.

But in large populations, they can very quickly ruin your harvests. This is especially true if you grow plants that slugs are attracted to. For this reason, it’s important to kill or remove slugs proactively as they become a problem.

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