You can grow your own food. And we can help!

I found the least expensive iron phosphate slug bait

Nov 09, 2010

Here in the Pacific Northwest, slugs are our worst problem. Just wanted to let you all know that I did some research yesterday in attempting to find the least expensive environmentally friendly slug bait. This requires buying a large quantity, but if you have slugs like me, this will pay off pretty quick. Check out my story on my personal blog


- and the big picture includes the effects on soil bacteria; the small-to-large food chain; the carbon footprint of mining finite resources & transportation distribution; & the fact that fresh waters & oceans around the globe are already overloaded with runoff phosphates from agriculture of all kinds to the detriment of acquatic life forms & the acquatic food chain with people at the top. It takes rigor to break out of ubiquitous consumer patterns & into trusting & integrating natural systems. But once through the transition - maybe with a little help from your friends as the song goes - actually using natural systems turns out to provide a lot of easy satisfaction. Ducks are easy, considering all the natural ways you've already made your own. Of note: we once lost a beautiful big Labarador Retreiver to a neighbor's slug bait. The vet didn't say whether it was friendly or unfriendly slug bait. Your little boy would love Ducks. Konrad Lorenz has written famously about his fascinating work with geese & how they bond-imprint on their first contacts. His geese hatchlings thought he was their mother. We saw the same behavior with duck hatchlings - different ducks - when my 18 month old son became a mother-figure to a new Mallard hatchling that followed him everywhere around our old-Almond-orchard home. He would chase it with his toy lawnmower that threw up grass-clippings & when he fell down the duckling would stop & wait for him to get up & off they'd go again. The duckling & on into duck showed affection for him by putting it's head up his sleeves & pants legs & nibbling his skin. When he came in for a nap the duck would curl up on his sweatshirt on the grass. Think ducks! for slugs, eggs, child-kindred & more ... :-)
I do think ducks, thank you. They aren't enough to put a dent in the slug population. Here in the Pacific NW, slugs are HUGE problems and if you aren't vigorous about controlling them there will be NO vegetable garden. Many people in this area just give up attempting a garden at all because of slugs. Ducks might be enough in some climates, but not here. Your reply is one of the reasons that I write so much about slugs. I am trying my best to eat solely from my vegetable garden, and without having slug control plans it would be impossible. I would love it if I didn't have to apply anything or spend money at all! Are you familiar with iron phosphate?
Given the slug density in your location & your homestead growing mission, that could be a solid solution. I have seen lots of plug-in & solar animal barriers where a 1/2" electrified barrier tape works wonders on animals that are also determined & also have a nocturnal life. The tape comes from horse supplies & other parts could be relevant. That's what I would rather research than iron phosphate, since I am familiar with global phosphate pollution & I opt out on phosphates. As one of my favorite environmentalists who is working on an enormous rehabilitation said recently, "It has to start somewhere." Small electrical & solar-powered jerry-rigged setups are another thing that interests me & I will research further. A friend who has installed a dozen offered to make me a solar-powered-garden-bed heated under the soil like a radiant-heated floor - to extend our short season on the front spring end. The tiny-pump-power is solar in his version but could be plug-in & the heat came from the pipe coiled in a hot-frame of hot manure, like the old French market gardeners used. Old car batteries figure in the home-made system of a friend who has continuous power from solar in his naturalist observation camp offgrid in the wetlands - with computers & TV.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for alternative measures, as you can see from the experiments I've done. So if you have additional ideas, keep them coming. I didn't find any slug/electric-fence videos on YouTube that told me much or were well made. The link above looks promising for inexpensive, low-tech effectiveness. I suspect that the caveat at the end, that "no slugs were injured in this video, even Toasty," the slug that curls up & falls off the two 9-volt wires, is probably for censors or the children you then hear cheering. Although this experiment is set up on the vertical plane of a square post, you could get the same effect with a one-board rectangular edge box. It looks simple enough to make a prototype test & worthwhile in your area where a long-term solution would be golden. If it works, people who are not as ingenious & persistent as you might like to buy buy kits! Name?
That's a possible consideration. But you have to realize that my gardens are huge. Like I said, I'm trying to live off of my garden. If there is someone with anecdotal evidence that these will work well and that they are inexpensive, won't shock me or my kid, etc., then it will be worth considering. However, I think continuing with the bait is far less toxic to the environment. Iron phosphate breaks down into substances that are already present in the soil (perhaps you are thinking of phosphates that are in detergent? those are different). What you are talking about sounds like a lot of plastic, and batteries which is detrimental to the environment in manufacturing and the pollution it creates. And the required energy to run it--we have cloud cover 10 months out of the year, solar energy is not much of an option. Besides, the batteries,etc., to hold all that energy can hardly be sustainable.
- into water systems, though probably not in your case - & ionize into the atmosphere where they go on to affect fresh & ocean waters via "acid rain." does a good job of covering pros & cons including the rapid acidification of the oceans, which is attributed largely to agricultural phosphates moved by erosion, ionization & wind. I'm not sure where you see plastic? 1/2" horse fence tape lasts for years ... And the old car batteries I mentioned have been in use for years & were old when found ...
but here is the EPA fact sheet, which is contrary to what you are telling me. Iron phosphate is well known to being very friendly to the environment, so I'm... a little caught off guard by what you are saying.
No wonder: "No adverse effects to humans are known or expected. Iron phosphate is considered GRAS (generally regarded as safe for food use). Snails and slugs are more sensitive to the effects of iron phosphate than are other organisms. No toxicity was seen in mammals, birds, or fish. For several other organisms, including earthworms and certain ground beetles, no harmful effects are expected if users follow the application rates and use directions on the label." Where I am coming from is that I consider the EPA a useful reference but not an ultimate authority. For example, "toxicity" does not cover the effects of "acidification." This particular Fact Sheet is dated 03/01. Since 2001 the critical acidification of fresh & ocean waters, primarily by agricultural phosphates, has been a huge topic in science. is a useful tool for 2010 in that it cites good current science & has a good index menu & search function. I'll try a search there on "phosphates," "iron phosphate" & "acidification" tomorrow. Getting late & dark here!
Hi Amy Iron Phosphate Slug Bait may not be as safe as the advertising would have you believe. I found this article recently which is very interesting. I have not read further to find anything that the confirms the statements made in the article. It is interesting though that they do not identify on a packet of 'Sluggo', what 99% of the contents of the container are. I also found this article that describes how each of the different slug baits work. I don,t think it corroborates the above article, it just repeats some of it. Not specifically about slugs this document from the Royal Horticultural Society is a useful database on pesticides. Even if you don,t use them it is still useful to know about them. After a little bit more research i think that the Iron Phosphate slug pellets are as safe as you are going to get, if you need to use slug pellets. They appear to contain 1% Iron Phosphate, 1%EDTA and 98% filler. EDTA is called a chelating agent and makes the Iron Phosphate break down in the slugs gut thus giving the slug, iron poisoning and killing it. The main thing is to keep it out of the reach of kids & animals, but you should apply that to packets of most stuff. EDTA document. Glenn

Add comment

Log in or register to post comments



Join our e-list to stay in touch




Praise for KGI:

"A group that can get
things done"

-Mother Nature Network

"One of the web's best sources of gardening info"
-Washington Post 

"The meeting place of the world's gardeners"
-WorldWatch Institute

more here



About us:

KGI is a nonprofit community of over 30,000 people who are growing some of our own food and helping others to do the same.  

Join our mailing list:


Connect with us:

Contact us:

Kitchen Gardeners International
3 Powderhorn Drive,
Scarborough, ME, 04074, USA
(207) 956-0606