Snails and slugs are great enemies of the garden: with a humid and not too sunny climate they proliferate, damaging the crops a lot. The worst damage is borne by leafy vegetables, especially salads, and young seedlings, which when they are defoliated can be irreversibly compromised.
The methods to combat these molluscs are different, unfortunately the simplest way is often chosen out of laziness, spreading the chemical slugicide in the garden. Granular bait is a method that works well for killing slugs, but we must be careful because it involves a series of contraindications in terms of pollution and is very dangerous for domestic animals and small fauna (in particular the hedgehog).
Before using this pesticide, it is advisable to inquire about what consequences it has on the garden and its shortage times, it is also useful to inform friends and acquaintances who may use it without awareness. There are also some natural alternatives worth discovering, including an organic snail killer.
The slugicide in blue metaldehyde granules
The most common snailicides on the market are products based on metaldehyde, it is a poisonous chemical compound presented in blue or water green granules. In addition to the metaldehyde, the pesticide contains a set of flours designed to attract snails, generally it is the proteins that entice the molluscs. The principle is that of the bait: just distribute the granules here and there in the garden to make the gastropods go to eat it and die from it. The formula is designed so that the snail killer resists the rains and has a good duration, this guarantees several days of protection for the garden but also prolongs the residence time of the poison in our soil. Obviously in organic cultivation this type of pesticide is not allowed and in general should be avoided for reasons of common sense.
An important thing to know is that metaldehyde is a harmful poison in particular for pets such as dogs and cats. Using it in the garden puts them in great danger.
Toxicity is not limited to ingestion, but also passes through contact with the skin, albeit to a lesser extent. This is why it must be handled with gloves and it is not necessary to put your hands on the earth where the granular bait was spread.
The waiting period
The shortage period is indicated on the packaging of each snail killer: these are the days that must be allowed to pass from using the product to consuming the vegetables. Often the time indicated is 20 days, an absurd time frame for fast crops such as salads, which practically reach harvest.
Unfortunately, too often in garden centers they still recommend metaldehyde-based products without reserve, omitting the consequences that they can bring. The majority of people who use granular bait do not care about the shortage period and out of ignorance spread the bait even just before picking.
Anyone who wants to make an organic garden must give up metaldehyde, without compromise. If someone is not convinced to do so, there is a useful precaution to limit the damage of the poison: the Lima Trap dispenser. This simple system allows to avoid direct contact between the poisonous granules and the ground, the upper cover prevents rain from spreading the product.
Lima Trap has the great advantage of limiting waste of bait, for this purpose it can also be used with organic snail killer (recommended).
The poisoning of animals
Metaldehyde poisoning is a frequent cause of death for pets, especially small and medium-sized dogs, which may be intrigued by the blue granules and who only need to ingest small quantities to be life threatening. Even the local fauna, if present in the area, is endangered by this pesticide.
Symptoms of poisoning manifest within a couple of hours of ingestion and consist of convulsions, tachycardia, tremors, diarrhea.
There are no antidotes that can save the animal, it must be taken urgently to the vet.
Alternatives to metaldehyde
Giving up metaldehyde does not mean letting snails devour the garden, there are also natural methods that allow you to safeguard crops, we talked about it in detail in the article on how to protect the garden from slugs.
On a small scale, the defense can be based on barriers made with dusty substances and also on the manual collection of snails, a system too often underestimated. Another good method is beer traps, which are simple and effective.
There is also a biological snail killer, capable of replacing the conventional one with equal effectiveness.
The biological snail killer
For those who have little time and do not want to try their hand at natural defenses that require constancy and time, there is also an organic snail killer on the market.
They are colored granules similar to those of the poisonous pesticide both in appearance and effectiveness.
This bait allowed in bio is based on ferric phosphate, a substance that affects the nutritional system of snails. In this way, gastropods can be targeted in a selective and environmentally friendly way. Once the ferric phosphate degrades in the environment, it leaves nutrient microelements useful for the plants, thus enriching the soil.
The disadvantage of this product can be in the cost, in this regard the aforementioned Lima Trap dispenser is useful which prolongs its duration and therefore allows good savings.