Beverage preference among the common garden slug (Arion distinctus)

A study by Mig Living


Darkness, moisture, sliminess, hunger, thirst: tasting, drinking, drowning. Death.

Brief explanation of the study:

Motivated by a desire to protect my vegetable garden from slugs without the use of toxic chemicals or spending an arm and a leg on tin slug fences of unknown effectiveness, I performed a study last Saturday night to see whether placing beer in containers in said vegetable garden would kill slugs and, if so, which shape/size of container was optimal. In order to test slug beverage preference, I employed several brands of beer and one non-beer beverage.

Containers used:

  1. Catfood cans (both the full-size cans and half-size cans with the same radius but only half as tall.
  2. Plastic flower-pot saucers about ten inches across and one inch deep.


All containers were buried so that the top edge was even with the top of the soil. A total of eight containers were used. Six catfood cans (containers #1-6) were placed in the lettuce patch. Two saucers (containers 7  & 8) were placed two or three meters away, between the red beets and the radishes.

The containers were filled to capacity with the beverages and left in the garden overnight.

Contents of the containers (1-6 are the catfood cans, 7&8 are the plastic saucers):

  1. Ottakringer Helles
  2. Schwechater
  3. Becks
  4. Stiegl
  5. Heineken
  6. Red Bull
  7. Red Bull/Heineken mixture
  8. Mixture of the other 4 beers


No slug preference for beer brand was expected. Some slug drownage was expected on the basis of previous reports. Random distribution of a few slugs per container was thought likely. No slugs were expected in the containers containing Red Bull, although ants were expected to construct a three foot-tall anthill overnight.


149 dead slugs were counted the next morning. Distribution between the containers was as follows:

  1. 7
  2. 36
  3. 11
  4. 7
  5. 2
  6. 2
  7. 42
  8. 42


Container depth plays no role in slug-trapping. Container radius seems to be important. The two saucers, which had much greater circumfrence/surface area, caught more slugs than the cans.

The biggest surprise was slug beverage preference. As you can see from the graph, there is a clear preference among arion distinctus for Schwechater, and their least-favorite beer is Heineken, tied for last with Red Bull (although the theory has been put forward that more slugs may have drunk Red Bull, but then jumped back out of the can afterwards; a second experiment utilizing time-lapse photography is planned once funding becomes available).

Something that has not yet been conclusively interpreted in this connection is the fact that the two larger saucers each caught an equal number of slugs despite containing, on the one hand, a mixture of the most popular beers and on the other the two least-popular beverages. It is possible, although unlikely, since it was only 2 meters away, that a different slug population inhabits the beet patch. It is possible that container size is a more important factor than contents. It is possible that the Heineken in the Red Bull in the saucer made the slugs drowsier and unable to jump back out.

It is also questionable whether the 6 beverages used in this experiment were sufficient – a larger-scale study with more types of beer would be useful.

Further research is necessary before a final conclusion on the beverage preference of arion distinctus can be drawn.


17 responses to “Beverage preference among the common garden slug (Arion distinctus)

  1. TH

    As Schwechater is completely unsuitable for human consumption (or so they tell me), a preference by slugs for Schwechater is completely unsurprising.

  2. Amazing findings. I expect these will be published in all the major journals forthwith.

  3. Muireann Noonan

    That was fascinating which in itself is fascinating. I think it goes to prove that any topic can be made interesting by clever presentation. You go girl.

  4. mig

    Am doing a follow-up comparison test, two saucers, both in the lettuce patch, one with Schwechater (the most popular of Saturday’s test) and one with original Czech Budweiser. Will present the results tomorrow. Should be good, when I went out to set it up this evening there was already a big slug waiting in the empty saucer.

  5. Wait until the snails get the message that “Schwechater” airport and “Schwechater” beer are not the same! ;-)

    Have you ever tried to sprinkle wood ash? Snails and slugs find it too irritating to crawl over it. Good fertilizer too.

  6. mig

    thx for the wood ash tip. will burn something when i get home.

  7. Trish

    “I was that snail in the saucer.”

  8. Trish

    And just for the record, has a slug ever jumped out of or into anything. I mean, what does that look like? A jumping slug?

  9. Maybe this is just the northwesterner talking, but holy crap that’s a lot of slugs in one evening! I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than three or four in the same place at the same time. Still, I find myself riveted by your study, and I plan to share your findings with a gardener friend of mine who has a burning hatred of slugs. He’s been using rather barbaric salt methods I think, and I doubt he has considered drowning them in beer.

  10. mig

    well, yes, trish, that’s why a study incorporating time-lapse night-vision photography would be such an important follow-up, to see if slugs really jump out of red bull saucers.

    meagan: i’ve heard the salt-slug thing, but i really wouldn’t recommend salting your garden, unless you’re growing pretzels. i’m looking forward to trying the wood ash method suggested by merisi, too. good for your garden, and if it keeps slugs out, that’d be great.

    i’m from your neck of the woods, and i remember zillions of slugs. plant lettuce and they will come.

  11. Name Required, Esq.

    Can we assume slugs don’t like siddling (?) up to the bar next to anyone? At any rate, now I’m scared to death I might accidentally drink some Red Bull here in the land of Heineken. Sad, would have expected a speedball effect, as perhaps did the slugs. Maybe one of them will be discovered in 47 million years, and shed some light on our human origins.

  12. Plants are phobic of me. So phobic, in fact, that they tend to keel over and die in my presence. I think growing lettuce is probably out. I’m having limited success with house plants. I bought 6 of them last month around mother’s day and 4 of them are still alive.

  13. JGH

    I have been trying to decipher the etiology of my stripped down , munched up lettuce for two weeks. I have sneaked out at all times of day to get a glimpse, could not find anything on the leaves, flying crawling or anything. After reading this I went back out and dug around in the dirt at the base of my plants and there found a constellation of slugs of every shape, color and kind. My beer saucers are in position! thank you for this tip. I am confident I can beat the 149 slugs in one night. my garden is crawling with them! where do they come from anyway? I suspect there is a queen slug lurking and propagating somewhere near by. STay tuned

  14. mig

    I got the 149 one night, then maybe a dozen after that over a couple nights and thought i’d won. Then i planted new lettuce, and it was all gone the next day. And I put out another saucer and got a couple dozen more slugs. Big ones. You have to keep at it, I guess. I haven’t tried spreading wood ash yet, that’s supposed to help too. Next year i might try planting lettuce off the ground in racks made from rain gutter sections, but my wife thinks that would look trashy…

  15. My boyfriend and I are planting a vegetable garden in our small backyard. We we excited that we wouldn’t have to deal with deer or the like as we are in downtown Savannah, GA with a high fence. However, we went out to the garden at about 3am today to find our seedlings covered in slugs. So, of course, I am filtering through the internet posts about slug control and found your test.

    I have to say, I love this post. Great idea, great presentation. My question for you is, shouldn’t your “control” beverage/liquid for this test have been water? Just a thought.

  16. mig

    good luck with your slugs, carmen. i considered water, but figured it wouldn’t work. it rained heavily recently and my receptacles filled up with water, and no slugs drowned, so i’m guessing my assumption was correct. a more extensive study is planned for next year, when i can set up my garden with a test in mind. depending on the results of my more extensive study, i am considering planting some vulnerable crops (lettuce, peas, peppers) inside a beer moat.

  17. Water doesn’t work because, as strange as it sounds, slugs can swim. The reason why they drown in beer because they get drunk.

    You might, however, try to build slug traps that address the slugs’ biggest fear, as revealed here:

    @TH: Schwechater happens to be one of my favourite beers. How it got its bad reputation is completely beyond me. It’s one of the few Austrian beers that hasn’t gone all sweetish and watery yet.