Does copper tape really stop slugs & snails?

I have been wanting to try out copper tape as a method to stop or at least prevent slugs and snails from damaging my plants for years now. Copper is said to repel these slimy destroyers by giving them a small static shock as they attempt to pass over the material. So, this year I have decided give it a go. Read on for my findings.

Last year must have been the worst year ever for gardeners. The continually wet summer and autumn saw slug and snail populations skyrocket. My allotment plot was totally stripped and I brought in absolutely nothing during harvest.

Buying copper tape – Stop slugs & snails!

Initially, I was put off by the cost – typically £5 of copper tape for about 4 metres on a 4 cm roll from various garden centres. However, I found a few suppliers online (ebay) offering the same product for a fraction of the price. I paid around £8 for 16 metres. Always worth shopping around for your copper tape.

During March, I started to apply the copper tape around the base of my greenhouse staging. I had about 20 trays of seedlings to protect. Later, I applied the same tape around flower tubs and troughs, into which I planted flowers and vegetables that I knew the slugs and snails would love to strip bare.

I had to ensure that whatever I stuck the copper to was clean and dry. It’s is very similar to sellotape in it’s adhesive qualities. However, self adhesive copper tape is very strong. It’s much like a thick, high quality oven foil. If you need extra adhesion, I could try gluing it on. However, it seems to stay put.

Slugs & Snails – nil pois?

It’s now the end of July and I am very happy to report a surprisingly high success rate with the copper tape! This year, I’m actually growing hostas, pak choi, French marigolds and larkspur. These plants, in the past have been serious magnet to slugs in my garden. So far, they are all looking very healthy, with no signs of damage. I did notice a single solitary snail in one of my planters, but no damage to report. Perhaps the experience of crossing the copper caused it to lose it’s appetite?

I also applied the copper tape around the bases of my young runner beans and french climbing beans. I used 10 cm length of PVC drainpipes with rings of copper tape applied around the top. Again, as with the other protected plants, there have been no casualties this year.

Slug control methods - copper tape

Copper tape as a protective barrier: My verdict

So, to answer the question Does copper tape really stop slugs & snails? I believe so.

From my experiences this year, copper tape is very effective in creating a barrier between your precious plants and slugs and snails. The static charge they receive is too much for the majority of hungry Molluscs. I have read conflicting views online, but I can only work with my own observations.

Watch the following video to see how they react to copper tape placed around a pot:

Still a sceptic? If you really want to play it safe, how about you electrify your copper (or conductive metal) with a 9-volt battery? Now that should work!

It’s all about balance

So, you have been sold these kind of ideas before, but have been left disappointed. I would always suggest using a mixture of methods to control slugs and snails in your garden:

  • Copper tape: Will stop most slugs and snails in their tracks, but not all.
  • Hand picking and disposal: Not the nicest of jobs, but if done every night, will yield good results. Use gloves when picking up slugs. It can be difficult to wash off the slime from your hands.
  • Encourage birds: Attract Song Thrushes, Blackbirds and Mistle Thrushes into your garden. Give them an incentive to call your garden home.
  • Chemical intervention: Use ORGANIC APPROVED slug pellets. They really work well, but leave little food for other animals. An excellent method if you are overwhelmed by slugs and snails. Organic, Ferric phosphate-based pellets will shut down their digestive system. Slugs and snails will then bury themselves into the soil and die, leaving no mess.
  • Avoid Metaldehyde-based slug pellets: Unless the pellets are approved as being organic, they will are likely to contain very harmful chemicals that will no-doubt hurt other animals and perhaps even children. They are also not as effective as the organic slug pellets. Avoid at all costs!
  • Do not count on hedgehogs! Yes, you heard me correctly. Slugs and snails often carry a parasite called lungworm. Lungworms are very harmful to hedgehogs and possibly account for half of their population decline in the UK. You are better off trying to encourage slow worms, frogs and toads into your garden to keep down the slug and snail populations.

Further reading on slug and snail control

James Middleton

An obsessive gardener since 1982. Day-time job - web designer and developer and University lecturer.

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