Slug and Snail Baits & Traps

- Iron-based baits are safe, easy and effective -

Summary: Traps and baits that contain yeast like beer or bread are highly attractive to both slugs and snails. Older baits also contain metaldehyde as the active ingredient (insecticide) while newer baits contain the less toxic iron phosphate. If baits are used to control slugs and snails I suggest the new iron-based baits as a much safer choice.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Beer and bran-based slug baits

Both slugs and snails are highly attracted to the odor of yeast. In fact, beer, which has a strong yeasty odor, makes an excellent slug and snail attractant all by itself. Beer-based traps are widely used for inexpensive slug and snail control. However, beer traps are very messy and difficult to deploy because they need to be emptied and re-filled every day or two (see below).

Bran and yeast-based solid baits also are highly attractive to both slugs and snails. Baits are usually formulated with a poison (active ingredient) that kills the slug or snail when the bait is consumed. Until recently the chemical metaldehyde was used as the poison component. Metaldehyde, however, is extremely hazardous to pets and wildlife that ingests the bait. Fortunately, safer alternatives based on a naturally occurring fertilizer, iron (ferric) phosphate, are now available.

Use safer iron phosphate baits

Solid pellet baits are the best approach for long-term management of slugs and snails (see How to Control Garden Slugs and Snails) but we urge you to consider iron phosphate baits rather than the older (and cheaper) metaldehyde-based baits. If you have the time, try setting out a few beer traps first (see below) but if this gets to be too much bother, try iron phosphate-based bait.

Slug and snail baits are available from lawn and garden stores.

Beer-based slug traps

There are many versions of homemade beer traps. The simplest is a shallow pan or plastic food container filled with an inch or two of cheap, stale beer. Bury the container so the lip is at about ground level so that slugs and snails can easily crawl into the trap. Suspend a cover that protects the beer but allows slugs and snails to enter, they will be attracted to the odor and fall into the beer and die. Empty the trap every day or two but don't put dead slugs into the compost bin because they will rot and smell bad.

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