Gardenseeker

Is it Safe to use slug pellets?

Slug pellets only harm slugs - say pellet manufacturers who are getting together in a bid to address the misconception in the market-place that using slug pellets is a cause for concern.

Pellet manufacturers pbi Home & Garden (producers of Bio Slug Mini-Pellets) and Doff Portland (producers of ‘Slugoids’ mini pellets) have joined forces with Lonza – manufacturer of Meta (metaldehyde), the active ingredient used in slug pellets – with a mission to dispel unfounded concerns in the market-place that using slug pellets in the garden can cause harm to birds, wildlife and pets.  The group is launching a campaign to address this emotive issue by revealing the facts to set the record straight.

"Unfortunately there’s widespread dissemination of ill-founded information surrounding slug pellets, often from organisations, media, and other authorities, that is fuelling concern unnecessarily," comments Jane Lawler, head of marketing at pbi Home & Garden.

Use Slug Pellets Properly and they are safe

"The fact is, from the research we’ve undertaken in the UK and overseas, we can conclude that, used responsibly in accordance with directions on the pack, metaldehyde slug pellets cause no harm to wildlife, pets or the environment," Lawler continues.   "Indeed, claims that they can cause harm are often presented as a statement of fact, yet when the journalists, gardening celebrities or organisations making these claims have been asked to produce supporting evidence, no such proof has been forthcoming."

Marrauding slugs on lettuce leaves

Doff sales and marketing director John Hancock adds: "Metaldehyde-based slug pellets are designed to target slugs and snails specifically.  What’s more, not only is the proportion of metaldehyde used very small, but the pellets are deliberately made unattractive to all non-target species using elements such as colour – blue being unattractive to birds – and bittering agents and animal repellents to deter animals." Used properly, Slug pellets are safe in the garden.

A further concern that birds or wildlife could be harmed by eating pellet-affected slugs appears to be equally unfounded.  Lonza points out that birds will not generally eat dead slugs, and furthermore highlights an investigation that found that hedgehogs could eat up to 200 slugs that had eaten pellets, in one night, with no ill effects.

Equally, metaldehyde slug pellets will not affect beneficial garden creatures such as earthworms, carabid beetles and amphibians, nor plants or soil.  After an active life of some two to three weeks, the pellets disintegrate harmlessly and the metaldehyde breaks down into carbon dioxide and water, leaving no residue in the soil.

"Fortunately, it seems that gardeners are voting with their feet – a recent MORI poll conducted earlier this year to identify precisely the level of concern found that 77 per cent of British gardeners who actively control slugs in their garden use pellets to do so.  But we can’t ignore the fact that 53 per cent use pellets reluctantly or as a second option if the first fails, and 15 per cent never use them due to perceived problems to wildlife – and it’s these people we need to reassure and make aware of the facts," Lawler explains.

Into Perspective

Ironically, some of the plants that gardeners are happy to enjoy in their gardens could be harmful to animals if eaten – amaryllis and daffodil bulbs, angels wings, jessamine berries, oleander, rhododendron, sago palm, and wild cherry and yew foliage for instance – yet these are not treated with the suspicion that slug pellets are. 

Indeed, according to the Crop Protection Association (CPA), many members of the public would be horrified at the toxicity levels of many household products, and indeed foods.  Rhubarb, raspberries, celery, coffee, most alcohols, and poppy seeds – none would be cleared as safe under the government’s approval scheme without many precautions (such as protective clothing) being required – yet we consume them.  Two tablespoons of the apparently innocuous salt can be fatal to a small child.  "It’s the dose makes the poison," a CPA spokesperson pointed out.

There are many items, such as washing and cleaning products for instance, that are happily kept and used in the home, yet could be harmful if consumed.  What is important is how they are used and stored.  "Exactly the same applies to slug pellets," Meta sales and marketing director at Lonza, Ernesto Plozza, points out.  "The inclusion, by the manufacturers, of bittering agents and ingredients to make the products unpalatable helps to deter consumption, and it’s up to the user to ensure that the products are used appropriately, according to the instructions, and stored safely out of reach of animals and children.  Given that they are used responsibly, in line with the directions on the pack, they pose no problem."

NOTE:

1.    Metaldehyde slug pellets should be used according to the instructions on the pack – distributed thinly and evenly over beds and borders, and not left in piles or clumps, with any spillages cleared immediately.  They should be stored responsibly, out of reach of children and animals.  Provided such directions are followed, there is nothing to suggest that slug pellets cause harm to wildlife, pets or the environment. They are as safe - and in our mind safer - than many other day to day chemilcal - in house and garden!

2.    Meta® is the registered trademark for metaldehyde from Lonza Ltd.  For further information see    or  www.metaldehyde.com

This is an emotive subject, so we print excerpts from mails received from visitors.

"regarding slug pellets there not safe at all my dog ate some on the 23-5-10 within 3 hours i had too have him put too sleep there is no antidote for them ,the suppliers should put bigger warnings on these pellets. THANK GOD IT WAS A DOG AND NOT A CHILD"

By David Hughes - info@gardenseeker.com