How Do Slug Pellets Work?

Slugs! As gardeners, we hate them. They cause damage to pretty much every plant in the garden. The go-to solution when dealing with slugs is to use slug pellets. But how do slug pellets work? And should you use them?

Slug pellets contain the ingredient metaldehyde, which is poisonous to slugs. 

As you well know, a fast and easy way to get rid of slugs is by using slug pellets. Slug pellets are small, often blue or green and contain metaldehyde.

The poison does not kill the slug immediately but takes a while. Metaldehyde will dehydrate the slug and eventually kill it. Slugs rely on moisture as they need it to produce slime. Dehydration is lethal for the slug (it’s why salt kills them too).

What Attracts Slugs to Pellets?

If slug pellets are life-threatening for slugs, why are they attracted to them in the first place? And why don’t slugs smell the poison in the pellets? 

Slug pellets are made especially for tackling slugs. The pellets come coated with strong attractants, which draw all the slugs towards them. The pellets will also produce carrion which further attracts slugs.

Slugs have a great sense of smell and can smell from afar. Unbelievably, slug pellets can sometimes bring more slugs to your garden instead of killing slugs.

Are Slug Pellets Cruel?

While using slug pellets against slugs seems like a simple solution, it can be cruel. 

There are two kinds of slug pellets that gardeners can use. One of the pellets is the iron phosphate ones, which, when consumed cause slugs to suffer from a painful death. These pellets lead to starvation, tortures the slugs, and does not kill instantly. 

The other slug pellets kill through metaldehyde. Using slug pellets with metaldehyde is also a cruel way to kill slugs. When slugs consume pellets, the metaldehyde dehydrates them. All the body fluids of a slug will leak from it, and they die of organ failure. Not pleasant, right?

Consider Other Deterrents
Because they’re deemed cruel, we would always advise exploring more natural ways of deterring slugs from your garden.

How Long Do Slug Pellets Stay Active?

As a gardener, you will want to look for options that last for a long time. Some home remedies need to be reapplied over and over as wind and rain reduce their efficacy.

Slug pellets are effective for three to four weeks. However, if there is heavy rain, you will need to reapply slug pellets. 

Do Slugs Pellets Hurt Slugs?

Slug pellets do not kill slugs instantly on contact. While slugs are harmful to gardens, many people are still concerned about using slug pellets. Even though one of the fastest and easiest ways to tackle slug infestations is through slug pellets. 

Using slug pellets is cruel killing slugs slowly.

You’ll find that when using slug pellets, either the organs shut down, causing slugs to lose the ability to move and eventually to die of starvation. Or, if they container metaldehyde, they will dehydrate from the inside.

This is a painful way to die and why so many people disagree with using slug pellets. 

Can Slug Pellets Be Dangerous?

Slug pellets are poisonous and one of the reasons why they are effective against slugs. However, you should be aware of some risks attached to using slug pellets:

Harmful to Pets

If you have pets, you need to be careful about using slug pellets. Pets like cats and dogs are curious animals. If your pet comes across slug pellets, there is a risk that they will try to consume them.

Slug pellets contain poison and pets can become severely ill if they were to consume slug pellets.

Harmful to Wildlife

Using slug pellets also contributes to harming wildlife.

Animals like hedgehogs and birds are known to die of metaldehyde poisoning. If animals do not eat the slug pellets, they can still get poisoned if they consume slugs that have metaldehyde in them.

Over the years, there has been a decline in the wildlife population because of this excessive use of slug pellets. 

Harmful to Slug Predators

You will also find that using slug pellets will also harm natural slug enemies. Slugs make an easy meal for different predators, and natural enemies face a decline because of slug pellets. Some of the natural enemies of slugs are toads, songbirds, hedgehogs, frogs and moles.

If the natural predators die, it disturbs the equilibrium of nature. In return, when you kill too many slugs, animals dependent on them will also perish.


We all dream of having a perfectly manicured garden, full of blooms and wildlife. But slugs might have another idea. They’ll come along, munch of anything and everything and leave your garden in tatters.

One of the easiest (and laziest) ways to deal with these slugs is to sprinkle slug pellets throughout your garden. But you need to ask yourself: How do slug pellets work? Once you know how poisonous they are, you’ll reconsider using them and look to other options.

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