Mea Culpa

I’m not a fan of slug pellets.

Nematodes are, generally, my friends (although there are those who suggest that if we use nematodes for anything we are upsetting the balance of nature, introducing alien species and so on).

Here, I have a healthy (ridiculously healthy if the activity at orgy time each spring is anything to go by) population of frogs and a regular family of hedgehogs who conspire to woofle up the local slug population. Thrushes have a snail-whacking time at the start of the year though, for some reason unbeknownst to me, they all disappear around late spring.

This year, though, was an exception.

My collection of hostas, rarely nibbled at all, was turned to confetti. I was picking snails of my cardoons by the bin-full. Snails also appeared on windows (that’s windows, not under the sills) upstairs and in all sorts of nooks and crannies. My little 2-litre salt-water bucket with which I ventured forth nightly to do the plink-plink-fizz operation (only works if you get two slugs or snails at a time; otherwise it’s plink-fizz) was changed for a builders’ bucket which I lugged around nightly, morningly, afternooningly and eveningly. I needed reinforcements!

A kind friend answered my plea for a handful of slug pellets, to be repaid when I could get to somewhere that sold the iron-phosphate type which is organic (there’s nowhere local; I eventually bought online). “Oh yes, they’re organic,” he said. Fine, I thought, as I duly spread them around (as you do if you have any sense), not sprinkling but picking up one pellet and dropping it, then picking up another and dropping it about four inches away. They say that slugs are intelligent and if you sprinkle pellets too close together they will move on and ignore them. And, of course, pellets are supposed to attract the molluscs to eat them rather than devour your plants.

And the modern organic pellets don’t dissolve if a drop of rain falls on them. They’re quite resilient you know. And when any that are uneaten by slugs eventually break down, they turn into plant food. So it’s a win-win!

When my online order was delivered, I tipped some pellets into a little bag and took them to repay my friend, to be greeted with a “sorry”. The pellets he’d given me were metaldehyde not iron phosphate. For that read “lethal” not “organic”.

This is not the way to do it!
This is not the way to do it!

Now I had dropped the pellets around individually, because I’m like that – stupid you might say. I have loads of time to spare. But you probably open a packet/bottle and shake it, leaving collections of pellets around your beds and borders. Even if you use the iron-phosphate type, which are classed as organic, piling them up will (a) attract the pesky molluscs and then (b) repel them and they’ll move on to your hostas. Spending a bit more relaxing time spreading the pellets around at about one every 4 inches will save you money and really help you to relax. They will also do the job.

Of course, if you have money to burn, shake, shake, shake. The blue-green spots will enliven your borders and send the slugs straight towards their main course – your plants.

But please remember that if you still have any of the metaldehyde pellets, the shake shake approach:

  • Will be even more encouragement to the slugs and snails to move on and devour your hostas;
  • Provide a nice mound of attractive food that could kill any hedgehog strolling through your garden looking for molluscs to eat or, at least, make it very ill;
  • Potentially poison your dog or cat, or rabbit or guinea pig.

So please check your slug pellet container. If it says “metaldehyde”, please bin it*. If it says “iron-phosphate” OK but sprinkle the pellets very sparsely, if only because it’ll save you lots of £££.

nemaslugEven better, subscribe to a nematode programme which will send you packs of Nemaslug at appropriate intervals. They may not be cheap but if you’re a serious gardener you will care about the environment and it’s a small price to pay to help wildlife – hedgehogs – and, maybe, avoid a vet bill for treating poisoning of your dog or cat!

Some options are (links worked at time of writing this post and open in a new window/tab):

And, for my error, I’m sorry. Honest.

*Actually, don’t bin it. Better to dig a hole a foot or more deep. Empty the container into that hole and backfill.

For a more light-hearted look at slugs, read my witterings at

Incidentally, if you’re not sure whether your slug pellets are organic because the label’s disappeared, metaldehyde pellets tend to be very blue whereas, in my experience at least, iron-phosphate pellets have a green tint to them.

4 thoughts on “Mea Culpa

  1. Well, John, your concerns for wildlife is admirable, as is your parsimoniousness. Though one pellet at a time shows gobsmacking restraint. But I do wonder if all this “organic” preoccupation is justified. How much evidence is there of pelleting killing things we don’t’want to kill?

    1. One must do one’s bit for those with whom one shares one’s space. Tho parsimonious isn’t the right word! It’s actually something I tried years ago and found it did make a difference. The slow process is also restful.

      There is evidence of metaldehyde building up over time and, if not killing hedgehogs, at least making them ill and arguably indirectly causing death thru, say, malnutrition from not eating. Domestic pets won’t eat enough to kill them but could eat enough to become ill and incur a large vet bill!

  2. I don’t spread my slug pellets individually, but i do try to be sparse. It must work because it can take me a couple of years to get through 1 container of pellets. The proper organic ones of course. Lets hope your frogs return in abundance next spring.

    1. Hi Julieanne Here the frogs are so abundant that I’m worried about the ability of the pond to sustain the growing population! Resident cat (aka Pillster) is, i think, getting a bit put out by being hopped over so much when he’s trying to sunbathe on the lawn! They seem to be happy with being picked up and returned to the water (they’re not cold and slimy, by the way – quite cuddly really). I’ve been wondering if frogs can read – do you think a “Shut up” sign would have an effect on the racket they make during orgy time?

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