Slimy trails and ugly holes a sure sign of slugs

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 14, 2013

SALISBURY — With the increased humidity and rainfall, slugs have become a serious problem in both ornamental and vegetable crops. Leaf damage, along with slimy trails on dewy mornings, is a positive indicator. There are several management and control options for slugs. One of the most successful methods of control is to remove their habitat. Avoid debris left in the garden that provides a hiding place and encourage air movement. Removal of excessive amounts of mulch will reduce the slug population.
You can also cut down on the number of slugs by eliminating their breeding and hiding places. Remove rotting boards, logs, pots and other debris from the infested area. It is helpful to compost or destroy plant refuse, which provides shelter for slugs. Trim tall grass and weeds along fences and ditches in the vicinity of susceptible crops. Some mulch material is less attractive to slugs. Cedar chips, pine needles and rinsed, crushed eggshells often repel slugs, either due to odor, resin and/or sharp edges. In fact, many hosta growers are reporting remarkable successes with pine needles applied 2 to 3 inches thick.
Hand picking is another alternative, especially during the evening and early morning hours. Trapping slugs under boards or overturned flowerpots is an effective method for control. Keep the traps in the garden several days before removing to allow slug populations to discover a new hiding place.
Beer bait used as a slug control is a novel idea, but is not very effective. Bury saucers or containers of beer at ground level. Several saucers or containers are often needed and must be emptied and refilled daily. Cans with plastic lids can be used with holes cut into the side and buried to the hole; this prevents other animals from discovering the beer and draining the bait. Slugs are attracted to the yeast smell and drown. However, in some situations, slug populations may be too large for this method to be effective.
Slug baits are available at garden center and other retail outlets. Most of the products available are either pelletized or powdered. Pelletized baits tend to provide longer residual effect than powdered forms. Most bait needs to be moist in order to attract slugs. Replenish baits when dissolved or removed. Baits may be dangerous to some pets, so use with caution. Make sure to read and follow all instructions of any pesticide. Go to for more detailed information controlling slugs with pesticides.

Darrell Blackwelder is the county Extension director with horticulture responsibilities with the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970, Facebook or online at