Do Copper Bands Really Deter slugs?

Snails what will our gardens be like without them?
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In this article, we continue our quest to deal with slug and snails in the garden and to see if copper bands are effective in this regard. They are such huge problems that often you wonder why you garden when these pests start to eat the leaves of your flowers and vegetables. They are such a nuisance I know.

Snails what will our gardens be like without them?
Snails what will our gardens be like without them?

I know gardening is addictive but you are still a glutton for punishment.  You cannot resist the beautiful flowers or those prize-winning vegetables. In past articles, I have reviewed beer traps, wool deterrent matting, slug pellets and plants that are resistant to slug attacks.

In this article, we see if copper tape makes a great addition to your toolbox?  Let us find out, can copper tape around your plants or containers be that effective. I will give you the facts but you must come to your own conclusions. This product will not harm the slug or snails but stop them in their tracks, so to speak or will they slime on their merry way?

 WHY DOES COPPER DETER SLUG AND SNAILS?

The two main reasons are that it deters slug and snails because copper is toxic to them and secondly to give them am electric shock. Copper sulphate is known as a disinfectant, as it will kill organisms, including slug and snails.

The main reason why copper is not as toxic is that it is generally unreactive, certainly less reactive than hydrogen. Copper compounds are toxic, but the metal itself is not. This is the same with slugs and snails as the copper must be first converted to toxic copper compounds.

Verdigris that forms on old copper pans can be effective toxic to slugs and snails. Copper will react with oxygen slowly to form a copper oxide that will react with carbon dioxide and water in the air to form copper carbonate, Verdigris. The problem is that the process can take months or years to form. Once copper carbonate forms it will be toxic to slug and snails and this will be a deterrent.

 DOES IT GIVE THE SLUG AND SNAILS A SHOCK?

The second reason why it deters slug and snails is that it gives them a shock, which is unpleasant to them and why they move away. The biggest problem is when a circuit is produced.

To explain further, you need to understand how an electric circuit is made in the first place. This is how basically cell works. First, you need two electrodes made out of dissimilar metals, often copper and zinc.

One act as an anode and another act as a cathode, between the two electrodes, you need a solution that conducts electricity that is known as an electrolyte. In this case, we have one electrode and an electrolyte in the slime produced in the slug and the snail, but there is not another electrode to complete the circuit. The question is how do the slug and snails get an electric shock?

The only other way that is possible for the slug and snail to get a shock is by electrostatic discharge. You know when you rub a balloon on your jumper and you get a shock when you touch it. It is possible that a slug can charge the copper band and in the process give themselves a shock, but to me, this is very hit and miss.

 HOW DO YOU USE COPPER?

Ideally, you place the bands around a container at two levels, so that the slugs do not want to pass through the copper. In my experience, one band is never enough. If you have a lot of containers to cover, it can get very costly. We now know in theory how copper would work, but is this the case in practice.

Slugs and snails are a nightmare in the garden.
Slugs and snails are a nightmare in the garden.

If you use copper wires around containers it does not seem to work, neither do copper pipes. But most copper-based products for deterring slugs tend to come in tape form. It does seem to work better but often in my experience, the tape is too narrow. If you can find it, it is better to use thicker tape or as said earlier to use two or more bands around the circumference of the container, placed at equal intervals.

Copper is not a cheap material, so it may be advised to use something else in its place.

 IS IT WORTHWHILE USING COPPER BANDS?

I have used copper tape in the past and I must say that I am not very impressed with them. I once covered a container with a beautiful growing hosta in it. You know I place a tape near the middle and near the bottom and guess what the little darlings still managed to get through both of the bands. They really did enjoy eating the hostas leaves. I was livid it seems to me that the copper did not do anything.  It may deter some of them but most certainly not all of them. It seems to me some can tolerate pain to get through to their prize.

I find it discouraging and maybe other gardeners have had more success than I have. It could be a balance between the risk the snails and slugs have for pain and the prize beyond the copper tape. Hence for one type of slugs, it may be worth the prize, whilst for others, it is not worth the effort.

If you wish to use copper tape to protect your containers, you can do so here, but if you want to use a better deterrent then I recommend that you use a woolly mat deterrent. It is much more effective and it will feed you soils as well. A win-win situation.

If you have any question or comments that you wish to make, please do so in the comment box below.

Copper bands may be a blessing in the garden or they may not.


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