The Slime on Slugs

I remember when I was a kid and didn’t know any better and picked up a slug….EEEWWW!! It was so nasty and the slime wouldn’t wipe off!! I’m so glad my mom was close by because she knew to use white vinegar and warm water to get the gunk off. I learned a lesson that day and have never picked up a slug since, at least not without something to protect my hand.


These nasty little creatures called “Slugs” can destroy foliage faster than plants can grow. Their favorite foods are seedlings and immature, tender plants. They also feed on larger leaves, and fruits and vegetables prior to harvest, making holes in the crops. In addition to their destruction through feeding, their slime trails produce toxins that can contaminate a garden or flowerbed.

Slugs hide in cool, moist places during the day so it’s sometimes difficult to detect their presence. In the daytime you’re more likely to find them in deep soil cracks, under planters, rocks, logs, mulch, or any other type of object that would have dampness under it. Seeing their slime trails is another indication that slugs are present.

The body of a slug is mostly water and the soft, outer tissue is tender and prone to dry out. They must generate protective mucus to survive. Slugs are mostly active at night and just after a rain or morning dew. In drier conditions, they seek out hiding places to help retain body moisture. During hot dry weather, slugs may become temporarily inactive or even seek out entrance into your home to stay cool and moist. They are capable of stretching to 20 times their normal length in order to squeeze through a tiny opening in search of food or moisture.


Slugs are hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female reproductive systems. Because of this they have the ability to mate with any other slug. Once the mating has taken place it only takes a few days for them to lay an average of 30 eggs in soil cracks or under an object. The egg clusters look like BB size balls of colorless jelly. Hatching can take anywhere from ten days to three years, depending on the temperature and moisture conditions. The eggs must have moisture in order to hatch.

When the slugs hatch, the babies travel through the soil and feed on germinating seeds and roots. They normally complete their growth in a couple of months, again dependant on temperature and moisture conditions. The slugs in the Oklahoma area normally reproduce twice a year, in the spring and fall.


Believe it or not, slugs hibernate in the winter. They burrow several inches into the soil or under rocks, boards, planters and other objects to protect themselves from the elements. They can live for many years simply by feeding, hiding and staying moist.


Slugs really don’t have many predators. I mean, think about it….would you want to eat one? YUCK!!!! They are occasionally on the menu for a snake, duck, goose or frog, but most birds leave them alone.


There are several ways to decrease the population of slugs and deterrents to slow their destruction but elimination may never completely happen. To follow are some things to try.


Slug and snail baits can be used but be very careful because they are dangerous to children, pets, birds, and wildlife. These baits will also lose some of their effectiveness after a rain or irrigation and will need to be replenished.

To kill slugs, you can spray them directly with a mixture of 1/2 water and 1/2 ammonia, or a mixture of 3 tablespoons of salt to 1 cup of water. Be sure not to get either of these sprays on plants.

Make a beer trap by putting beer into a container that a slug can easily climb into, such as a pan. The fermentation of the beer attracts them and once inside, they drown. This method will only work for a radius of a few feet away from the trap so you may need to put out several containers depending on the size of the area you are trying to eradicate.

Set up moisture traps at night using boards or moist newspaper. Place them on a soil surface in your flowerbed or garden, preferably in an area where you have seen their slime trails. In the morning, remove the trap, pick up the slugs with a gloved hand or a pair of tongs, and drop them into a bucket of salt water.

If at any time you find slug eggs, remove and smash them.


The best deterrent is to regulate your watering schedule. Slugs are most active at night and prefer moist conditions. Set your sprinklers to run in the morning as the sun is rising, that way the surface soil will be dry by evening, limiting slug activity.

Slug bodies are very tender and susceptible to injuries and cuts. Because they are composed of mostly water, a small cut can cause them to dry up and die. Therefore, they don’t like sharp objects and will avoid crawling over them.

Lava rock is an excellent way to protect your leafy plants from slugs, and it comes in a variety of colors so you can use a color that matches your mulch. I personally use lava rock all over my flowerbed and just use mulch directly under the plants to keep their roots moist. Works GREAT and it’s pretty too. Just be sure to keep the lava rock above soil level or the dirt can form bridges for the slugs to cross over to your plants.

Sprinkle crushed egg shells liberally on top of the soil around the base of leafed plants. Snails and slugs don’t like the sharp jagged edges of the eggshells.

Slugs don’t like copper because it gives them an electric shock. You might consider putting a strip of copper flashing or copper foil on the ground around a flowerbed or garden to keep new slugs from moving in.

Do you have other suggestions or proven methods to get rid of slugs?

About Debi Lawson

Debi was the co-owner of a landscape construction company in the Tulsa, OK area. Even though she is no longer a part of the company, her love for the beauty of the outdoors continues. Her hope is that you will find some help from her posts to aid you in keeping your piece of nature flourishing.
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