Any child who has accidentally stepped on a slug in their bare feet can attest to the fact that it’s a thoroughly unpleasant experience. Squishy and oozing, that slime seems to stick like glue.
Seen from the slugs point of view the area around or underneath your house can be quite attractive. Especially in an older home – there are plenty of cracks and crevices, it’s dark, cool and often moist. Slugs never stop looking for food and sometimes that search can lead straight to your front door.
Why are they attracted?
Slugs have a good sense of smell and are often attracted to pet food, kitchens or pantries. Just try leaving the dog’s food on an outdoor porch on a rainy spring night – if slugs are in the neighborhood they’ll come running! (So to speak)
How do they get in?
Having no bones, or even the hard shell of an insect, means that slugs can squeeze through amazingly tiny cracks. They can also climb a vertical surface and even travel upside-down. Common entry points include the spaces under doors, holes drilled in the floor for water or gas pipes, joints along walls, cut-outs for furnace and dryer ducts and holes for electrical wiring.
How to stop them
We highly recommend polyurethane foam in a can. This material expands as it cures and fills up every void with a durable, pest-proof barrier. Pay particular attention around any pipes or ducting, joints and spaces around doors or the edges of baseboard trim. Wear gloves and old clothes when using foam because it will stick to absolutely everything including your hands. Disposable gloves would also be handy. Read the directions and carry paper towels with you to catch any foam oozing out of the nozzle. The one trick to be aware of when using foam is that it’s difficult to save part of a can for later. You can try to seal the tube after use but it’s best to either use it up or throw it away. After the foam hardens any excess is easily trimmed off – we like using an old serrated steak knife or hack saw blade.
Another common and easy-to-use barrier for slugs or snails is copper tape, strips or mesh. Copper reacts with slug slime, causing an unpleasant disruption in the nervous system, apparently feeling much like an electric shock. The easiest material to use is self-adhesive copper tape – this can be applied across the threshold of a door and will last for years. Copper tape can also be wrapped around pots and planters.
The new generation of slug baits is effective, tasty to slugs and best of all not toxic to children, pets and wildlife. Old style baits, which are still commonly available, are based on a chemical called metaldehyde. This chemical woks well enough if you carefully follow directions but it can be very dangerous to children, wildlife and pets. Dogs are especially attracted to the pellets and will seek them out even if scattered around the garden.Baits developed in the last few years are based on iron phosphate, a compound not really toxic to anything except slugs and snails. Once they eat this bait slugs will stop feeding and then crawl away to die a few days later. Iron phosphate baits will stay intact for a week or two before they break down. If you protect the bait from rain and irrigation with a board or overturned margarine container it will last even longer.If conditions are dry irrigate before applying bait to bring slugs and snails out of hiding. Then scatter bait near walls, fences, decks and any moist, protected area.Timing is key to achieving the most effective control. Apply baits in the spring and early summer when slugs and snails are most active. Then apply again when egg-laying starts with the autumn rains.
Slugs and snails on pet food dishes
Self-adhesive copper tape is also great for applying to the bottom edge of pet food bowls.
Hardware cloth – a heavy galvanized metal screen – can also be formed into a shelf or tray to hold Fido’s dishes. Like copper, slugs and snails will avoid crawling across the galvanized mesh of hardware cloth.
Control the slugs outside and not as many will come inside
Try our 6 step plan to eliminate slugs around your house and garden.
Diatomaceous earth is the fossilized remains of a single-celled algae called the diatom. Millions of these tiny fossils are collected over time and form deposits similar to limestone. This material can be sprinkled directly on slugs or used as a barrier. If you live in a dry environment diatomaceous earth is a very effective slug and insect killer. However, diatomaceous earth is not effective once it gets wet so most people will have better luck using one of the methods above.
Salt will definitely kill slugs and a band of salt across a doorway will keep them out but we don’t recommend this method. Salt will also kill your plants and constantly stepping over a line of salt just doesn’t seem practical.