Garden Myths – The Beer Snail Trap

Snails must be the most well known of all garden pests. In a single evening they can destroy plants, entire beds of seedlings and even your postage. They are especially attracted to succulent plants like spinach and lettuce and low hanging fruit like strawberries and tomatoes.

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Not so fast!

A common organic gardening technique suggests making a beer trap.

No, I said BEER trap, not BEAR trap

No, I said BEER trap, not BEAR trap!

This involves using a watertight container – fill it with beer and bury it level with the ground. The snails, alcoholics that they are, are attracted to the beer, fall into the trap and drown.

Are snails really attracted to beer? Or is the trap simply acting as a “gravity trap”? Can I use a cheaper alternative to beer?

In my experiment, I’ll use 3 identical yogurt containers. I will bury them close together and fill them with 3 different liquids: Beer, a beer substitute, and water (the control). If the snails are only caught by the beer container, I’ll know the snails are indeed attracted to beer. The beer substitute will indicate that the snails are actually attracted to sugar, yeast and alcohol. And finally, the water container will tell me if the trap is simply acting as a gravity trap.

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Recipe for disaster? Remember to take the cap off

First, the beer substitute.  I’m using a 2L milk container to mix 2 cups of sugar, half a teaspoon of yeast, and the remainder with water. The mix will ferment, release C02 gas, and create alcohol after a day or 2.

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Got gas?

Next, the beer trap.

What snail could resist?

What snail could resist?

And finally, the container with only water.

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Every morning I’ll check the snail count in each and remove the dead snails. I’ll top up the mixes as required.

2 Weeks later and the final tally is in…

  • Water – No Snails!
  • Beer substitute – 4 snails
  • Beer – 8 snails and 1 slug

It would seem that beer does indeed attract snails, with 8 snails and a slug caught in the beer trap. The beer substitute wasn’t nearly as successful with only 4 snails caught, most of which were rather small. Finally, the water trap lost out with ZERO snails caught.

So there you have it, the beer trap works… but at what cost?

Other Garden Myths in this series:

 

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