Slug Lite - The brew that brings them crawling
By Jennifer Bennett

Harrowsmith, 1989

The old trick of wasting perfectly good beer in an attempt to attract and drown slugs is one that some gardeners swear by. Others, like Linda Gilkeson, remain unconvinced. Now, according to research by Colorado State University entomologist Whitney Cranshaw, it appears that the variability of results may be due in part to the brand of beer used. In two years of trials in New York and Colorado, Cranshaw found that North American beers varied widely in their ability to attract slugs. The first year, 1986, "Colorado slugs showed a decided preference for Pabst Blue Ribbon and Coors Light," Cranshaw reported in his summary entitled 'Control of Garden Slugs by Excessive Drinking.' New York slugs, however," preferred more expensive beers," especially Molson Golden. ("New York and that slugs have better taste," Cranshaw said later.) The ability of any of the beers to attract slugs did not persist for more than one evening, however, and a mixture of 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon baking yeast turned out to be a better attractant than any of the beers- good reason, finally, to leave the bottles in the refrigerator.

Last year, Cranshaw conducted a more comprehensive trial (titled Slugfest '87): "It was kind of a slow period and it was a nice wet spring and a friend's backyard was great for it," Cranshaw says. The results-given in Bud Units, attractiveness expressed as a percentage of the capture in Budweiser-baited traps showed that "Anheuser-Busch products appeared to be most consistently attractive to slugs." But a nonalcoholic ''near beer,'' Kingsbury Malt Beverage, beat all the standard beers, a pink Chablis, even sugar-water-and-yeast. Actually, in the brands of beer outperformed the sugar-water-and-yeast, contradicting the 1986 results. In a separate trial of sugar-water mixtures, lager yeasts turned out to be more attractive than either ale or baking yeasts. Cranshaw also found that malt sugar in water attracts more slugs than sucrose (table sugar) in water, that hops make no difference, and that diatomaceous-earth barriers-unless they are wet and therefore ineffective-can stop about half of all slugs from reaching an attractant such as beer (or, presumably, the broccoli).

Although Cranshaw plans to do further testing to determine more accurately what components are responsible for the effectiveness of beer traps, his trials will continue to be dependent on the environment. Last year, he says, "We kind of trapped out all the slugs and had to stop."