With January already indicating we could be in for a wetter than normal year there is every threat of a serious explosion of slugs in our gardens. After several dry seasons we have more than 107% rain in January 2018 which is why the experts are warning of a potential huge problem with these two serious pests.

It might actually be worse than we anticipated partly due to a change in the legislation from the health and safety executive who have decided in their own wisdom that the maximum pack size the home gardener come by of Metaldehyde -based slug pellets should be 250 g down from the current 1 kg and the new packs are due to be phased in by the summer of 2018.

I find this more than amusing as the stories about the dangers of slug pellets continue to proliferate in my opinion often very wrongly because of the misinterpretation of house slug pellets actually work on slugs and snails.

The whole basis of control by using metaldehyde is that this chemical originally used by Boy Scouts in the 1920s the starting fires does nothing more than promotes the excess production of mucus. This is why you will often find long trails of slime often terminate in the body of a slug or a snail.

I wholeheartedly agree that home gardeners should never ever have used slug pellets based on the farmers formulation of methiocarb, a serious stomach poison that often killed many beneficial insects especially forms of Beetles but our valuable predators in our gardens.

I know gardens are getting much smaller and this could be part of the reason behind the health and safety executive's decision to reduce product size but there is no danger to animals be the either pets or wildlife from eating slug pellets as they contain to very bitter ingredients making it virtually impossible for the birds animals and pets to digestive at the most a very small number, often leading to nothing more than a slight upset stomach.

Many others will have to turn to alternative methods is no doubt in the longer run the active ingredient metaldehyde will be banned and probably without the lack of scientific evidence. Some time ago we lost the liquid form known as liquid slug it which was ideal for spraying on the foliage of hostas and there were no pellets left behind for any possible errors such as with hedgehogs although there is no proven link between hedgehog deaths and slug pellets. There are a number of leading hedgehog specialists who have made such claims but have never come up with the scientific evidence.

It's a bit like me drinking coffee and then dying there will be traces of coffee in me but anything less than 38 average sized cups are not deemed harmful and I am sure none of us can recall people dying from Coffee poisoning.

It is the same with slug pellets while hedgehogs have been found with minute traces of the active ingredient in slug pellets which makes up less than 2% of the total volume of the pellet, none of the animals found dead could be attributed to have died from slug pellet poisoning.

As an alternative I have in recent years been trying the slug control from grazers which is available in a ready to use and concentrated form to spray on the foliage of plants and around the soil, in our garden it has proved very effective but more difficult to set out to apply the merely shaking a few slug pellets over an affected area such as in the greenhouse stomach seedlings where even the grazers nonchemical soil derived ingredient can cause some damage in bright sunlight.

I suppose it is the age-old story that emotion is getting in the way of facts and when social media begins a campaign certain groups jump on the back of this and whether the cause is worthy or not social media will condemn it. Without slug pellets it is estimated there could be a 25% or more reduction in crops such as strawberries. Can we manage to feed the world's population without the use of metaldehyde based slug pellets in the future that is the question.

(C) Howard Drury February 2018

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Category: News Stories 2018
Last Updated: 21 February 2018
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