Snails are bad for gardens. Homeowners and gardeners therefore often turn to snail-killing baits in order rid their properties of the pests. Sadly, the most common form of snail bait contains an ingredient called metaldehyde. It is my opinion that metaldehyde is one of the worst inventions of all time. The stuff definitely is toxic to snails. Sadly, it also is toxic to dogs.
Dogs are drawn to metaldehyde, and when they eat it the results aren’t pretty. A recent article in the Modesto Bee summed up what can happen:
[Metaldehyde,] when ingested, initially causes nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. This can lead to severe retching and vomiting. These gastrointestinal signs are followed or occur concurrently with muscle rigidity and convulsions, leading to coma and, in some cases, death.
Untreated severe cases of metaldehyde toxicity almost invariably lead to death; the poison has effects that are similar to strychnine, and death by metaldehyde is not peaceful in any way.
Therefore, I think we can agree that nobody should use metaldehyde ever again. But that leaves a question: how can gardeners control snails? I have suggested saucers of beer placed next to choice plants (the snails crawl in and drown, drunk and happy). I have also heard unconfirmed reports that copper wires placed at the base of plants will deter the molluscs.
The article, however, points out a couple of other options. One is to use alternative snail baits containing iron phosphate, which is much less toxic to dogs. The author also suggests using predators such as ducks and turtles to control the pests, but points out that the predators sometimes require special management of their own.
At the end of the article the author mentions something that most French people know: snails are edible and nutritious. My fiance’s grandfather used to harvest snails and prepare them in a special Maltese family recipe. I never got to try the dish and to my knowledge the recipe has been lost to history, but I have heard it was quite good. I can’t say that I recommend eating the snails out of your garden, but I can say that I prefer that notion to the use of metaldehyde.
Click here to read the article in its entirety.
Photo: close your eyes before you put it in your mouth. By Sneana Trifunovi.
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