Iron Phosphate As a Slug Bait & Killer

Updated July 19, 2017

Terrestrial slugs serve an important role in nature by devouring dead and rotting plant material. The varieties that ingest living plants, particularly the ones eating your tomatoes and flowers in the garden, can eat plants faster than they can grow. The destruction of your lawn and garden by these slimy pests can be stopped quickly and effectively with a treatment of an iron phosphate based slug killer.

Iron Phosphate vs Metaldehyde

The development of iron phosphate as a slug bait and killer has successfully replaced the highly toxic slug pesticide "metaldehyde." Iron phosphate is naturally found in many soil compounds, and is nontoxic to animals excluding mollusks, such as snails and slugs. Iron phosphate is commonly used as a molluscicide for organic crops.

Iron Phosphate Pellets

Covered in a cereal or wheat-based coating, iron phosphate pellets often look similar to grains of rice. Food-based iron phosphate lures slugs out of hiding under leaf litter and underground to eat the granules.

How Iron Phosphate Kills

When eaten, the iron phosphate obstructs the slug's natural calcium metabolism making the slug unwilling to eat. Slugs that eat the bait die of starvation within three to six days of ingestion.

How to Treat Your Garden

Iron phosphate pellets should be applied after a rain shower because slugs will be most active. Watering your garden also activates slugs. Soggy and dewy mornings are an effective time to set bait. Remove plant debris and leaves from your garden, as slugs enjoy dark damp piles of plant matter to hide in during the day. Be sure to read the iron sulphate bait directions carefully to be safe.

Other Methods vs. Iron Phosphate

Other tactics of slug removal are varied, and have a much lower success rate when compared to the organic and nontoxic solution of iron phosphate. Salting a slug is a messy process that many consider to be cruel and may harm the soil's fertility levels. Leaving beer out for slugs attracts them in a similar way to cereal based iron phosphate. The intention is to drown slugs in the container once they drink enough to become inebriated; however, the effectiveness is small scale and many times slugs simply crawl away safely in a drunken trance. Alternative molluscicides may contain toxic chemicals that are unsafe for edible plants, pets and wild animals.

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About the Author

Based in northern Florida, Arnold Carreiro has been writing video game articles since 2005. His work has appeared on websites including Simply Rare, Atlantic Publishing and Quirk Classics. Carreiro holds an Associate of Arts in graphic design from Florida State College at Jacksonville.