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Uggg, I hate slugs. They're gross.
I have a flower garden and I love my flowers, sadly, so do the slugs. With our long spring (it's July and we're still having spring weather), our property is overrun with slugs and they're treating my flower garden like an all you can eat buffet. I went to the store for a pet-safe slug repellent and nothing. Nothing for weeks. After checking several stores, I finally asked “what's the deal?” Turns out that another victim of the pandemic are the companies that make slug repellents. So, my next step was to figure out how to repel the slugs myself.
After a quick Google search, I found the following natural repellents:
- coffee grounds
I was surprised not to see salt on the list. When I was a kid, people put salt on their stoop to keep the slugs away. Over the years, people have come up with better solutions.
Does the World Need Slugs?
So, yes, we should love all of God's creatures because, in the grand scheme of things, they all have a purpose, right? I mean, we used to run away from bees and now we celebrate them, leaving dandelions to grow for our buzzing friends. Even mosquitoes have a purpose beyond being annoying AF – they serve as food for our fish and frogs. So, I'm sure the world needs slugs too – but I had to Google it because I had no idea what that purpose could be.
Food. Slugs are food for a lot of animals. Thankfully, not my dogs. Although when Apollo joined our family, he was still at the stage of putting EVERYTHING new in his mouth, including slugs. Uggg.
So, I get it, birds and other small animals, earthworms, and bugs dine out on slugs. Ewww, and some slugs eat earthworms and other slugs. Yuuck. And, believe it or not, slugs eat our dogs' poop (along with beetles), making it go white and crumbling, checking off a chore on the Dog Mom Chore Wheel.
Fun Fact: If you ever see two slugs in a circle with a white blob between them, you're witnesses slugs getting busy. Yep, slug sex.
Are Slugs Dangerous for Dogs?
So, I almost didn't add this section, but because of Apollo, I figured that I'd better – just in case. I didn't expect to learn that slugs can pose a risk to dogs. Yikes!
Slugs and snails in our garden may carry a parasite – lungworm – which is harmful (and can be fatal) to dogs. And a dogs doesn't need to eat the slugs/snails, they can be at risk after ingesting the slime. Yuck!
Symptoms of Lungworm
According to VCA Hospitals, the symptoms are a little all over the place depending on exposure and may include…
- Increased breathing rate
- moderate coughing or sneezing when stressed
- severe coughing
- respiratory distress
- exercise intolerance
If you suspect that your dog has contracted lungworm, please contact your veterinarian immediately.
Natural Slug Repellents / Killers
So, since slugs are part of the natural order, I'll learn to live with them. But I need them to stop eating their way through my flower. I'm not a fan of killing slugs – you know, natural order and all – so I'm leaning towards safer options.
In my research, I learned a few things about slugs that made choosing a repellent easy (if it works, that is).
Slugs Don't Like Crawling Over Sharp Things
So, if you don't mind causing one of God's creatures (yeah, I'm laying it on thick here) some discomfort, then I recommend trying eggshells or nutshells. I don't have nutshells, so I decided to sprinkle ground eggshells around my plants because the calcium is good for the soil. Bonus!
I tried this solution both alone and with the coffee noted below and it did work to repel the slugs. The only caveat is that the shells need to be replaced daily if you grind them too small. When I water my flowers, I rinse away the repellent.
Slugs Don't Like Coffee
I'm not a coffee drinker so this one was confusing to me. I read that we needed to get ground coffee, but it couldn't be instant coffee. I think one site said the coffee had to be freshly ground while another suggested going to a coffee shop and asking for their leftovers. The one thing that was consistent was the darker the roast, the more effective it would be at repelling slugs.
I went to the grocery store and picked up a dark roast of ground coffee and sprinkled it along the edge of my flower beds and it worked! I went from having 15-20 slugs crawling around to seeing three and they were on the outside of my flower beds. Yes!
The only caveat here is to make sure your dogs aren't trampling through your flowers because coffee can be toxic to dogs.
I did try coffee and it did work, however, it needs to be replaced daily since watering the flowers rinses the coffee away.
Rosemary isn't Just a Spice
I also read that if we plant rosemary sporadically around our flower garden, the slugs will stay away. I have one rosemary plant and slugs are never around it. So I decided to give this a go too. A few of my annuals are dead and ready to be turned into mulch. I'm replacing those flowers with small rosemary plants – they'll be all around my garden.
I tried to find rosemary and came up short. I'm still looking because, in my search for ways to get rid of slugs, I've noticed that none of the creatures crawl on or near my rosemary plant.
Slugs Get Drunk
And, finally, everyone recommended that I use cheap beer. Take a small cup and fill with beer and bury in the dirt with the top exposed. The slugs are attracted to the smell, dive in to have a drink and they drown (sad face) as they get drunk. So, while this could be “it's you or my dogs” situation, my dogs don't lick or eat slugs so I'm not a fan of this one because of God's Creatures / Natural Balance and all. Plus, the idea of replacing a cup filled with beer and drowned slugs is not appealing.
Now this one did work. Slugs like beer. They don't get drunk and fall asleep, instead, they crawl into the beer and I guess they drown. It's disgusting, but I did capture a lot of slugs, cutting down the population of slimy creatures eating my flowers. I buried the dead slugs to keep birds from eating them. Maybe birds don't eat dead slugs, I don't know, but I didn't want to end up killing them too. I'm a monster.
What About Repel Slug Repellents
Many slug repellents/killers on the market are toxic to pets. Think about it, if it's a slug killer, there's a good chance that one of the main ingredients is a poison. Uggg, and have you smelled a few of the slug baits on the market? There was one that smelled like ammonia – do you really want that on your plants?
There are a few “natural” options on the market, however, they're not at our stores either, and, to be honest, the natural solutions I found that works (coffee, eggshells, rosemary plants, and beer ) are cheaper and safer.
So, in the end, natural options do work, but they have to be repeated daily. When I purchased the “natural” products sold at the hardware store, I only had to treat my flower garden weekly to keep the slugs away. What I learned in my research is that despite being gross creatures, slugs are an important part of the eco-system so it's best to manage them to keep my flowers alive and pretty and be thankful for the birds that eat them every morning.