Why Slug Traps and Why Beer

Beer Traps

When I talk to people about slug traps I get a lot of negative comments. So many people question why beer... and then say "that's too expensive" or "I'm not giving my beer to those horrible pests".

The most common complaint, though, is how messy it is. But that's the thing, it really doesn't have to be. Since I came up with the design for the Slug Inn, we have been getting so many positive reports from our Slug Inn customers. Simply because it does make the whole process significantly easier and mess free. Here's why...

When I first came up with the idea for the Slug Inn, I was living in a lovely house in Devon with a huge garden (you do get more for your money down there). When we bought the house I had fallen in love with the idea of a large, beautiful garden that I could wander around and enjoy in the spring or on a hot summer's day. However, the reality was a little different. Where I lived before, the relatively small garden meant that a trip to the garden centre to buy bulbs and other planting at the beginning of the year could cost me about £50, maybe more with compost and other bits and pieces. With the new house I was spending hundreds and hundreds of pounds. Where I might have bought two or three of one particular plant I would be buying 20 or 50. I had to start growing from seed to keep costs down but I was investing much more of my time in keeping the garden up to scratch. That's fine and I enjoyed it at the time, but then along came the pests!

The moles were bad enough but it was just a matter of days before the slugs did their thing. One morning I looked out the window and things looked different. I was devastated! Weeks of planning, trips to the garden centre, hours of digging, planting, feeding, watering, nurturing and patience... and then,almost overnight, the flowers were gone. Some areas looked like a battlefield with strange looking green stumps glistening in the morning light with the sticky residue of the night before. Where my beautiful flowers used to be was a wasteland. I hated the pest beasts.

That's when I experimented with slug traps. I wasn't going to use any form of poison because there was so much wildlife in the garden. everything from frogs, birds, squirrels and hedgehogs to foxes and deer. So after a bit of research I decided to try beer traps. Most of the other ideas like copper tape, coffee grounds, egg shells etc. would never have worked because of the size and complexity of the garden layout. Whereas, I could place several beer traps in all of the critical parts and of course beer wasn't really going to do anybody any harm. My first attempts were with yoghurt pots because they were a good sizes and we had lots of them. The first night was fantastic we caught hundreds of slugs and snails. That was great but, that was when I had my doubts. Firstly it was oh-so MESSY! The pots were covered in mud and they were filled with sticky slug soup. I had to wear rubber gloves, I can understand why people try it just once. Then you throw all the sludge away, push the pots back in the soil and fill them up with beer again... I had to open another four cans of beer! Expensive.

So I experimented. The first thing I did was to work out a way of avoiding the muddy pot issue. We used to buy small plastic bottles of tonic - I worked out that I could cut the bottles in half and push the half with the screw cap into the soil and if I had stretched this half in some hot water first, I could drop the bottom half inside it when it was in the ground. This meant I could lift out the "bottom half", with the beer and slugs in it, without disturbing the soil. That worked OK but I still had to wrestle with the slug soup.

I had crafted the inner part (bottom half) with a tab so I could lift it out without having to touch the sludge, but it eventually occurred to me that if I put lots of holes in the inner part, as I lifted it out, the beer would drain into the top of the bottle that was now left in the ground. This was groundbreaking stuff! not only had I separated the slugs from the soup (so I could easily tip them out), I could now keep the beer from the night before. I found that the beer would last for days and still attract slugs and snails. The Slug Inn was born.

It may not be completely mess free, but it is so much easier to manage. I developed the Slug Inn as a fully engineered product and teamed up with a plastic moulding company in Hampshire to get it manufactured. We then set up Kakoi Limited as a way of selling it. The rest is history and Kakoi Shopping is now selling the Slug Inn as well as other useful stuff. 

So the biggest issue for some is the cost of the beer. As I have explained above, because the slugs can be separated from the beer, the beer can be reused and may not have to be replaced or topped up for a week or two. But of course you don't have to use expensive beer or lager. Avoid alcohol free but the very cheapest of beers will work.

I will cover beer in more detail in a future post, so check back later. I intend do some more experiments with baits as I have heard that some fruit juices and other mixtures do work but what I really want to do is investigate how long these will last and what the actual costs are. There's no point mixing up your own concoction if it takes time and ends up costing more. Watch this space.

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