How to find a slug in your backyard with the kids

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Slug on a rock

My 5-year-old daughter is on a serious nature kick.

We spend our days watching Nat Geo specials, finding funny animal videos on YouTube, and reading books about creatures from chickens and goats to lions and lizards.

Of course, nothing quite beats meeting different animals face to face in real life — so we like to go out looking for wildlife in our neighborhood whenever we can… even slimy slugs!

If you’re a parent to a budding nature explorer (or if you are one yourself), here’s my quick guide to how to find a slug in your backyard (or anywhere else).

You won’t usually find slugs out in the open. Look for them in dark, moist, and secluded spots — turn over boards, logs, pots, and medium to large rocks… especially those sitting in the mud or dirt.

Slugs that hide under rocks and other cover will want a food source nearby, so bonus points if you can find boards, logs, rocks, etc. in the shade that are also near yummy treats like dead plants, leafy greens, or mushrooms.

Let’s take a little bit of a closer look and get you all ready for your slug hunt.

Where to find slugs near your house

Slugs are infamous for their slimy, sticky texture.

The slime, beyond being fascinating and kind of gross, serves some pretty important purposes. It helps them cling to surfaces for easy climbing, and it protects their skin.

However, slugs really need to remain moist to keep their slime in tact. They can’t risk drying out.

That’s why slugs are usually found in places that are:

  • Cool
  • Dark
  • Moist
  • Covered

Chances are, a quick walk around your house, yard, neighborhood, or park will yield tons of great slug hiding spots.

You’ll have the best luck finding slugs living under:

  • Rocks
  • Boards
  • Fence posts
  • Logs & large sticks
  • Railroad ties
  • Boulders
  • Leaf piles
  • Dead weeds
  • Discarded pavers & cinderblocks
  • Mulch
  • And more

Remember, even though they spend a lot of their time under cover, they still prefer to be in the shade.

A big rock out in the bright sun is less likely to be a home for slugs that a smaller one tucked into a shady corner.

The first time I took my daughter out on a slug hunt, we found a family of them (plus some snails) living under a football sized rock right up against our house.

It was shady and slightly seated in some mud.

The perfect slug hiding spot, a shady rock

You can also see that there are some dead weeds and grasses laying around — perfect slug food!

The underside of the rock is visibly wet, making it a great place for slugs to avoid drying out.

Look for rocks, logs, and boards just like this for your best chance of finding a slug with your kiddo.

Most areas of the world, outside of extreme climates, are home to your basic land slugs.

Using bait and traps to catch slugs

If you’re struggling to find any slugs nearby, you can always create a bait system to trap them.

For our purposes, you’ll want to avoid beer/yeast-based traps or poison traps — both are designed to kill slugs, and the former may attract tons of slugs from all around to your yard.

You probably just want to look at a few, not invite them all to live with you!

You can create a simple live slug trap using some water or soda bottles (instructions here), except…

… remember not to use beer as your bait!

Put some leafy greens or other fruits and vegetables into the trap and place them in a shady spot by your house.

(Try lettuce, tomatoes, eggshells, dandelions, or strawberries for bait.)

For a faster but less elegant solution, fill up an upside down frisbee with your bait.

The slugs will be able to escape after they’ve had their fill, but luckily for us, they don’t move very fast.

How to know if you found a slug (slugs vs snails and other critters explained)

Slugs are slimy little mollusks that, in North America, can measure up to 10 inches long.

(Though most of the ones you’re likely to find will be much smaller than that.)

They have a long body, like a worm but thicker, and two antennae on their heads.

When you’re hunting for slugs, you’ll know it when you see one!

But you’re also likely to run into snails, which are quite similar to slugs with the exception that snails carry a shell on their back.

Here’s a good photo of a basic land slug for your identification purposes:

A slug in grass
Ozzy Delaney/Flickr

Slug fun facts & handling instructions

So you found some slugs… Congratulations!

Now what?

It’s a best practice to leave wildlife alone as much as possible.

But for curious kids and nature explorers, the question remains:

Is it safe to handle or pick up a slug?

Answers from the scientific community are mixed on this. But in general, most forms of land slug are NOT harmful to humans when touched or handled.

They can carry diseases and parasites, however, that can be dangerous.

It’s also interesting to note that slug slime is extremely difficult to get off of your hands.

For that reason, it’s best not to purposefully pick up a slug with your bare hands — though if you find one on you accidentally, there’s no need to panic.

It should go without saying that you never, under any circumstances, eat a wild slug.

Here are some fun facts about slugs to share with your little one before we wrap up:

  • Slugs can follow their own slime trail to find their home
  • Slugs can produce offspring on their own without a partner, but prefer to find a mate
  • A slug can live up to 6 years in the wild!
  • A slug’s eyes are located on the tips of its tentacles, while it uses the base of the tentacles for smell and touch
  • Slug eggs can sometimes take years to hatch depending on climate conditions

(Facts source: SoftSchools)

Wrapping Up

You should have everything you need now for a successful slug hunt!

It’s a really fun activity to do with your younger kids. It’s outside, hands-on, and gives them a chance to learn about nature in your own backyard.

Remember, you’ll usually find slugs living under cover (logs and rocks) that stay shady during the heat of the day. You can attract them to a live trap with yummy greens and other things slugs eat.

It’s probably not the end of the world if you touch one, but try to avoid it — they can carry disease and their slime is really difficult to wash off!

What are your best slug finding tips? Any fun slug facts I missed?

For more like this, check out:

Happy hunting!

(And before you go, here are some fun indoor activities you can do with a toddler — save it for a rainy day.)