What are slug pellets and what are they made of?
Slug pellets are small, rounded and compressed mass containing substances that are poisonous to slugs and snails, often placed around growing plants to prevent them from being damaged.
Generally, there are two main types of slug poison ingredients that can be used in slug pellets. These are Methiocarb and Metaldehyde, both poisonous to slugs but working in different ways.
How do slug pellets work?
Methiocarb is actually banned in many countries, so this should give you an insight into how dangerous it is to humans and animals. The chemical methiocarb works by causing slugs to swell up and die but is also threatening to more environmentally friendly insects such as beneficial earthworms who may come into contact with it.
The more commonly used poisonous substance in slug pellets is metaldehyde, more popular or widely accepted because it is 10x less poisonous than methiocarb although still toxic enough to raise a few concerns about its use. Metaldehyde is a contact poison that works to protect garden plants by damaging slug mucus cells and causing them to release excessive amounts of slime to the point they eventually dehydrate and die.
What is the danger/hazard in using them?
While it may be obvious to most people that handling dangerous, let alone poisonous substances requires us to be cautious, how often do we consider the safety of other living beings who may be affected when it comes to using slug pellets?
We completely understand the frustration gardeners have. In fact, each year slugs cause an average of £8 million in agricultural crop damage. However, when it comes to using slug pellets in an effort to combat this, those small slimy creatures aren’t the only ones who suffer. The contents and appearance of these pellets make them highly attractive to pets, wildlife and even children, here’s why:
Slug pellets can appear striking and stand out to common pets such as dogs and cats, whose curiosities are often explored through the used of their mouth. Not only this, the very formulation of slug pellets is similar to that of dried of cat or dog food due to the fact that slug pellets are composed of the same based blend of ‘cereal’ in cat or dog food that makes them highly appetising. All of which is not ideal when slug pellets are extremely poisonous. Even just a couple of slug pellets would be enough to kill or at least cause severe illness to pets.
Despite being a threat to wildlife, slug pellets are still a popular method of gardening pest control. Animals such birds and hedgehogs can be attracted to slug pellets for similar reasons to those of domesticated pets but because these animals tend to be smaller, even the slightest amount of exposure to the poisonous pellets cause prove to be fatal and cause death.
However, this isn’t the only way slug pellets affect wildlife. Although over the years the population of slugs has increased, (a nightmare for gardeners) the population of their predators – hedgehogs, frogs and wild birds has decreased by a third since 2004. We do understand there could be a number of reasons for this but given the dangers of slug pellets, the use of them probably only contributes to the depopulation issue.
While the blue colour of slug pellets is used to make them unappealing to birds and other wildlife, this actually does the opposite when it comes to young children and toddlers. Whether you garden at a local allotment or in your backyard, consider the chances of young children (even if they’re not your own) coming across slug pellets, playing with them and even potentially eating them – this could be just as fatal as any of the above circumstances. This also goes for how slug pellets are stored, if they’re kept in low cupboards or generally anywhere toddlers can get access to them, then they create a serious safety hazard.
Are slug pellets really worth it?
For the potential damage slug pellets can cause, it isn’t really worth the hassle of using them. In fact, they’re probably the last resort you should use as a pest control method considering how they can be ineffective. All it takes is a little rain or moist/damp soil and the metaldehyde in the pellets stops working because slugs have access to water to replenish their loss of it.