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Kill slugs with organic pellets not DIY alternatives

Slug on a leaf

We’ve found that using DIY methods to get rid of slugs, like beer traps and eggshells, don’t work very well compared to slug pellets. However, on the plus side organic pellets are just as effective as non-organic ones.

Slugs and snails regularly top lists of the most troublesome garden pests.

They can especially wreak havoc at this time of year, munching through tender young shoots and precious seedlings.

We’ve found that slug pellets are by far the most effective way to deal with these slimy foes in our Which? Gardening trials.

But although you’re better off sticking to slug pellets, the good news is that our most recent test has shown that organic pellets, based on ferric phosphate, are just as effective as non-organic ones, based on metaldehyde.

The organic pellets have the added advantage of being harmless to wildlife and pets – and the slugs go underground to die, rather than expiring messily in your borders.

Most slug pellet alternatives ineffective

There are lots of home-made methods to tackle slugs and snails. When we surveyed 2,000 readers recently, the top methods (aside from slug pellets) were: copper tape around pots and plants, ducks and geese, nematodes and removing them by hand.

Devotees of the latter say they can collect 200 an hour in warm, damp weather. But what do they do with 200 slugs? Some snip them in half, others leave them for the birds.

Of course, many people swear by DIY methods, such as putting beer traps and grainy barriers around their plants (they interfere with slugs’ slime glands). But we tested five branded granular products in the past and none proved very effective. And in the case of beer traps, we found that insects such as beetles and centipedes fell into them too

DIY barriers – such as soot, bran, eggshells and sand – were easily breached by wind, rain and animal activities, so they must be topped up regularly. Copper rings were the only barrier that proved pretty effective. Although, unless plants are well-spaced, leaves may soon grow over a barrier, providing an alternative route for slugs and snails.

One thing’s for certain, though – few of us can stand by and let slugs and snails do their worst. So what’s your plan of attack going to be this spring? Do you find that some DIY methods work for you, or will you take our advice and plump for organic slug pellets?


Metaldehyde is a very effective slug and snail killer, but it poisons birds and hedgehogs that feed on the dead or dying snails. It’s good that ferric phosphate is equally effective and approved as an organic product. I find it surprising that ferric phosphate is harmless to wildlife and pets, yet kills slugs efficiently. I wonder how it works because most pesticides that are effective are also harmful wildlife and humans.

I would be happier if a biological control agent was available. These tend to be harmless and very specific to the target species.

Mark Smith says:
30 March 2011

I found beer traps to be very effective, they were getting around 10-15 slugs a night each when I started using them. The ones I used have lids that overlap the edges of the trap by a good margin so flying insects tend not to be drawn in too often. After a couple of weeks beer trapping, it became difficult to spot a slug in my garden.

I’ve got a small garden and regularly liberate snails by moving them from my seedlings to a tree in the street. Strangely, though, I don’t get any slugs – which is just as well as I don’t think I’d be that keen on picking them up.

Unless the ‘tree in the street’ is several hundred yards, away, your snails will just follow you home!

Or to somebody else`s garden!!!

Peter Kidd says:
20 April 2011

Nice to know of a safer alternative to metaldehyde but how does an organic compound (metaldehyde does not contain any metal) get classified as non-organic whereas an inorganic compound (containing ferric iron) get classified as organic?

foyboy says:
25 April 2011

Turn the telly off for half an hour when dark , and ,with a jam jar etc and a pair of long nose pliers or similar pick them up, Only this way can you protect wildlife. We lost pet thrush and hedgehog when neighbour used pellets! Only laziness stops YOU doing this !

Rick says:
9 May 2011

I have been waiting years for these Organic slug pellets. I used to spent hours in the garden at night hand picking and destroying slugs and snails – easily getting 100+ every night, with no effect. I have found the Organic pellets extremely effective, and my wife is a lot happier that I don’t go slug hunting any more !

rach98 says:
25 May 2011

can anyone suggest how i can stop them coming into the house

i can regularly see their calling card on my carpets in the living room and they. also get into my kitchen whenever i come down in the middle of the night there are always one or two on the floor. i find them in my vegetables on towels cleaning cloths i have tried pellets on the outside of the house also salt in my sink – which i really dont want to repeat – any advice will be well received.

Christine Browning says:
20 June 2011


2 garlic bulbs, crushed
Boil in 2 pints of water for 3 – 4 minutes
Add sufficient water to bring it back to 2 pints

Put one tablespoon of the above into one gallon of water.
Water on to the leaves of plants in late afternoon and leave to dry.

The lady who provided this recipe on Beechgrove Garden (shown on TV in Scotland) uses it round her hostas and says it reduces the use of slug pellets by 80%

Jiva Masheder says:
17 July 2014

HI, I use ferric phosphate pellets on my allotment, under the weed mat, and they are very effective. In the garden I use slug traps but instead of expensive beer, we have found that a marmite and water mixture is just as effective and a lot cheaper!