food garden leaf blur

Slugs, Snails, and Sourdough Starter Discard? A recipe for success?

We have been making our own Sourdough Starter for some time now to use in making our own bread (and we use a Spelt Sourdough Starter in particular because Spelt is said to be easier on your digestion system. But that’s for another conversation.)

Exciting news (especially for any of your folks that like sustainable organic gardening)! There’s yet another use for our sourdough discard! Chemical-free, pesticide-free, and organic slug bait! Yes, you read that correctly. Sourdough starter discard can be used as an organic option for rounding up slugs and snails.

Recently, Oregon State University (OSU) researcher, Rory McDonnell, led a multi-institutional research collaboration and found that a simple mixture of flour, water and yeast (bread dough) attracts slugs and snails in droves.

Snail on leaf chewing away as a pest to production

McDonnell theorizes that it is the fermentation process that draws them in saying, “We gave them a choice of food and they consistently went for the bread dough. They really, really like it. They went bonkers for it. Bread dough outperformed everything (even better than beer).” In fact, in one instance, over 18,000 snails were trapped within 48-hours according to McDonnell! Research also revealed that it can be effective in the field in Oregon for at least 8 days if the bread dough is kept moist.

Don’t have sourdough starter discard? No problem! You can make your own slug and snail slurry any time using whatever flour you have on hand along with yeast and water. Here is the recipe McDonnell recommends:

  • 500 g of All-Purpose Enriched Bleached Flour
  • 500 mL of water
  • 2 packets of Active Dry Yeast (0.25 oz packet size)
  • Note: You do not need to use any particular brand of flour or active dry yeast

1. Mix all three ingredients thoroughly until combined. (If you already have sourdough starter discard, simply feed your discard with equal amounts of water and flour to the weight of your discard and mix ingredients thoroughly.)
2. Apply dough directly to the ground leaving a little distance away from the plants you want to protect. Simply remove the slugs or snails as they arrive.
3. Alternatively, you can also sink a shallow container into the ground and add the bread dough / sourdough starter discard. If you add water to make it a bit more watery, they may simply drown and then you can toss the jar contents periodically, rinse out, and replace with fresh sourdough starter discard or bread dough.

McDonnell also suggests, “The dough works best when it is moist. If it dries out, it will not be as attractive, so in dry weather we stir the dough daily and then replace it if it starts to get dry.”

close up of person making dough
Photo by Felicity Tai on

If you grow anything in the mint family, know that during wetter weather, snails and slugs will especially be attracted to these plants. Have a non-toxic slug or snail plan in place like bread dough.

photo of green peppermint plant
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Also, NASA spotted El Niño precursor from space (May 21, 2023) and says that in the Southern part of the United States we may see wetter weather more than usual. This is actually something I’ve been noticing in our own garden (and I’m totally enjoying this cooler spring) — the snails and slugs have been out in full-force.

NASA El Niño satelite scan

I will be implementing this sustainable gardening practice bread dough tip from the OSU right away! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you try it in your area and if it works for you.

PS: OSU has a slug portal (yes, I’m not making this up) if you want to learn more about the latest news on slug identification and management using sustainable practices. You can check that out here if you are interested. (Also great for any homeschoolers out there who want to learn more!) 😉

Happy growing y’all!


slug on a leaf

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