Slugs & Snails - What Are They Good For?
As the song says - absolutely nothing. Or are they? Wells as it turns out they are an excellent food source for wildlife and have an important role in the ecosystem by eating decaying plant matter and fungi. However they also prefer tastier fare such as our prize hostas lupins and seedlings. These pests are usually active at night and you won't know they have been there until the morning when their silvery slime trails can be seen crossing the garden and your plants have been attacked. As gardeners there are few worse sights than a garden decimated by these pests, so how do you deal with them?
Slugs and snails have many predators like birds hedgehogs, slow worms, frogs and toads. You may consider making your garden wildlife friendly and attracting these helpers to your gardens defence. A small pond makes an idea home for frogs. Attract birds by providing them with nesting sites, a feeder or a bird bath. Hedgehogs are in decline in the UK so get together with your neighbours and connect your gardens into a hedgehog highway by digging channels under fences or cut holes in the bottom of the fence to allow them to roam freely. Provide them with a home in a pile of leaves or under a log pile in a quiet corner of your garden. This may also attract toads and slow worms.
You can protect your plants by placing a protective barrier around them. Copper tape is effective around pots and containers. Granules like Growing Success Slugstop are a mineral aggregate that you apply to the tops of pots and containers or around the stems of plants extending out beyond the bottom leaves or as a continuous surface that slugs and snails will not cross. Another similar product is Vitax Woolgone, these pellets are made from British sheep's wool which you scatter down over the area and then water in. The pellets expand to form a mat and the natural barbs in the wool deter the slugs and snails from crossing to the plants. If you have a lot of plastic bottle in your home you can recycle them by removing the caps and cutting off the bottom then placing it over the plant and putting copper tape around it to prevent the slugs and snails from crawling in. For larger plants cloches and Popadomes maybe more helpful and you can combine these methods to increase your plants protection.
Nematodes are microscopic parasitic worms available via our website. To guarantee freshness of the nematode eggs these are posted to you directly from the supplier. You then apply them to your garden where provided that the conditions are right they will hatch out and start devouring the pests.
Slug pellets have been around for a long time and are a sometimes controversial subject so lets look at this in some detail; the pellets are made from cereals such as wheat or oats which is what helps attract the slugs and snails. It is vital that pellets are correctly applied as outlined in the instructions found on the packaging. There are 2 active ingredients that are used. Bayer ultimate slug & snail killer and Westland Eraza Slug & Snail Killer are both based on Metaldyhyde. This is an organic compound molecule and is a form of alcohol. Because of this it is also found in some camping fuels and this is how it was discovered that it killed slugs and snails as campers would wake up the next day to find the used cans from the previous nights fire full of dead slugs and snails who upon examination had eaten the remaining fuel and died. The pellets work by being eaten and then the metaldehyde reacts in the stomach to produce Acetaldehyde which is the alcohol molecule found to cause hangovers and it is this that causes the dehydration that actually kills the slug or snail. It then breaks down in the body which means that any animals that eat slugs or snails that die as a result of eating these pellets will not be harmed. It is important to note that Metaldeyde is poisonous if directly consumed and there are cases every year of someone’s beloved pet eating these pellets. For this reason some pellets such as the Bayer ultimate slug and snail killer contain a substance called Bitrex which makes the pellet taste very bitter and disgusting to deter accidental consumption. Also pellets should be scattered thinly and never placed in piles. Firstly placing it thickly in piles does not make it more attractive to slugs and snails and is actually wasteful of the product and secondly; dogs in particular as well as cats may think that the piles of pellets are actually food and consume it before the bitrex is even tasted. If your pets do eat slug pellets take them to your vets immediately.
In years gone by Metaldehyde was also available in liquid form as slug clear liquid (previously Murphys liquid SlugIt) which was a bottle of concentrate which you diluted to strength in a watering can or sprayer and applied to the leaves of any ornamental plants. Sadly however it is no longer available having been withdrawn from the market in 2015 when it was banned due to the concentration of Metaldeyde in all products being reduced, and no-one has produced a replacement for what was always one of our best sellers and one that we still get asked for today. It is important to note that it is illegal to sell this product now even if any sellers have stock left.
The second active ingredient is Ferric phosphate which is a naturally occurring mineral and as such these pellets are approved for organic gardening. We stock Growing Success Advanced Slug Killer, Neurdorff Sluggo, Bayer Slug Killer and Scotts SlugClear3. Iron phosphate is classed as an irritant and may be harmful when swallowed. For this reason the packaging clearly states that it is safe around children and pets when used as directed.
Let’s be clear on this; THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SLUG PELLET THAT IS SAFE FOR CHILDREN AND PETS! Slug pellets, whatever their active ingredient are poisonous if consumed by people and animals so always follow the directions and spread them thinly. Store the pellets correctly out of the reach of children just as you do with medicines and household chemicals. Putting pellets into piles on the ground is wasteful and does not make it any more effective and runs the risk of your pets thinking its food put out for them.
So given all this why would you buy them? Because they work! Repeat applications may be needed every week as pellets are consume or the pellet breaks down and the active ingredients do not leave any toxic residues in your soil. We have found that a good way for people to use pellets when they are concerned about accidental consumption is to use a product called a Slugbell, available in a variety of attractive designs. The Slugbell consists of a metal stake with a basket into which you place the pellets. A metal dome is then put in place on the top which shelters the pellets from the elements, hides them from the view of any children or pets which might be attracted to them and concentrates the pellets aroma to attract slugs and snails from further away. They climb up the stake, eat the pellets and die, falling to the ground where the wildlife can consume them later. We have had excellent anecdotal feedback from customers, fellow staff members and family members who stated that they wanted to use pellets but were concerned about accidental consumption who found that this method really does work.