ammonia for slugs

marricgardensJuly 12, 2012

We had a hosta speaker come to our horticulture socity and give a talk. She recommended usin 1 part ammonia to 10 parts water with a squirt of dish soap. I used to use Slug and Snail bait but heard it was bad for dogs and mine eats everything so I thought this spray might be better. Does anyone else use this formula? How well does it work? Does it work against the cutworms to? Marg

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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b


There are lots of people here who use ammonia and water at between 10 and 15%. You don't need the soap. What you have to understand about ammonia and water is that it will kill slugs on contact, but it does not have any residual effect. That is, after it dries it's no longer effective. I use ammonia and water in the early spring and then in the fall as a soil drench to kill slugs and slug eggs. It's a good preventative.

As for bait there are two main kinds on the market. You can see another thread on the board today where this is being discussed. Methaldehyde bait (Bug Geta or Deadline) is very toxic to pets in even small amounts. Iron Phosphate bait (Sluggo or Escargo) is relatively safe for pets when used and stored properly.

If you want a bait that also works against cutworms try the "plus" baits, like Sluggo Plus. These contain Spinosad as well as the molluscicide.

I use a three pronged approach for Slugs. Ammonia and water as a soil drench in early Spring and in very wet weather in areas where slugs live (i.e. my compost pile). Sluggo bait about once a month and hand picking along with traps like boards or flat rocks.

Welcome to the board. Stick around and take a look at some of the pictures here.


    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 12:51PM
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Yes it works for slugs - a search should bring up a number of discussions. This mixture is a contact remedy - you need to spray the slugs. Spray around base of hosta and onto petioles when slugs are present - dusk or early evening is a good time. Efficacy fades quickly as ammonia breaks down, so repeat every week or two.


    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 12:58PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

it is EITHER 10:1 .. ammonia.. or vinegar ...

its a pH thing.. it makes them slime so much.. they dry out ...

link below to FAQ's ... there is one on slug hunting ... [dont miss the garden etiquette one also .. very informative.. lol] ...

spend $5 for a pump tank ... at wallyworld ...


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 1:10PM
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If you add the soap, it might have the added benefit of working against earwigs....but frankly, I can never catch those things in action so I don't bother with the soap.

No, the ammonia spray does not work on cutworms, unfortunately. Also unfortunately, drenching the soil with it greatly upsets the earth worms it contacts. I don't know if it kills them, but they come squirming out and don't look happy.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 1:38PM
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I have used both ammonia and vinegar for slugs. I keep a spray bottle with vinegar handy (I have a hard time walking around with a larger sprayer). The only reason I use vinegar rather than ammonia is because I also use it to clean river rocks, either for making my rock hosta markers or structures for my freshwater aquariums. Vinegar foams on limestone and ammonia is something you don't want anywhere near tropical fish.

Otherwise both ammonia and vinegar are in my opinion equally effective. And if you are really ticked-off at slugs and want to feel good about their demise, a salt-shaker gives great satisfaction. There is nothing subtle about the effect of even 1 grain of table salt on a slug.:>


    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 2:08PM
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bernd ny zone5

Here is an article by Bill Meyer who points out how dangerous to animals Sluggo is.

Here is a link that might be useful: How dangerous is Sluggo

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 2:40PM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b


I've read that article several times. It is true that if dogs eat large amounts of Iron Phosphate, they can get sick or die. But that has only happened when dogs or pets have gotten into a bag of the stuff and gorged themselves. If you apply Sluggo in massive amounts (against label recommendations) then pets could get sick. But if you use Iron Phosphate according to the label and store it properly, then it won't make your pet sick.

On the other hand eating one grain of Methaldehyde bait will make your pet sick, and a small amount of it will kill them. Luckily, Methaldehyde these days is made with Bitrex a chemical which makes it taste bad.

But the relative danger of Methaldehyde and Iron Phosphate is clear. The blue stuff is much more dangerous. It's not even close. Just read the label. Oh, did I mention that using a pesticide in direct contradiction to the label is a violation of Federal Law? Besides the fact that it makes you legally liable if it's used against label recommendations.


    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 5:53PM
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bernd ny zone5

You wrote earlier that Metaldehyde is so bad, and a real expert like Bill Meyer in that linked article -posted on the Hosta Library- says 'not so fast'. I have something against when it gets written that BugGeta Plus is so bad and pets are dying, does not seem to be true.

I try to have a macro view of things. Quite a few people here use Bug Geta Plus. HH uses it and has pets. I have no pets, but neighbor's cats are around, nobody gets sick. Plus I get 3 lbs for $9.24 at HD, it works well, so why should I use and buy Sluggo? No idea.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 7:44PM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b


I don't think that Metaldehyde is bad. If I didn't have pets, I probably would use it. It's very effective. But it is toxic to pets and small children. That's not my opinion. It's a fact. The companies that make it say this on their own label.

I didn't say that pets are dying. Hopefully people are using it correctly and they aren't dying. But if people use it then they should use it in the way the label states. To do otherwise is risky. That's my opinion.

Here's a quote from the label of Bug Geta Plus:
"This pesticide may be harmful to children and fatal to pets and other domestic animals if ingested. Children and dogs may be attracted to metaldehyde products, both in the package and when applied. Children and domestic animals must be kept out of treated areas from the start of application until the applied product is no longer visible.

Application of this methaldehyde product is prohibited unless children and domestic animals can be excluded from the treated areas from the start of application until the applied product is no longer visible."


Here is a link that might be useful: Bug Geta Plus label

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 11:08PM
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Sheesh, this thread never ends.

I hate chemicals.

Now, that being said, I hate Hosta Gardens that look like swiss cheese this time of year.

A few years ago we had to leave town for a week, right around this time of year, because of a sudden, unexpected death in the family.

Upon return, the entire 2+ acre 2k+ Hosta and shade garden here was swiss cheese.

I ran (O.K., drove) to the nearest beer store and did the deed, spreading, after somewhat burying the little party cups to attack them.

Holy Moly, by the time I got to the third cup I could look back and see the slimey buggers climbing the first semi-buried first cup.

Yes, indeed, it works.

However, here's the 'but' . . .

Having 'hidden' all those cups all over the gardens here, now the chore was to re-find them all, empty and re-fill them with fresh brew.

Some two years later I was still finding them!

So I spent many, many hours the next winter reading, reading, and reading some more.

I then did some testing the next year.


Metaldahyde (sp?) based products work the best.

The early experiences about household pets problems are long-since fixed, assuming you properly apply the product.

This reminds me of my experience regarding home-built, or for that matter, commercial-built new aircraft.

All too often, these new aircraft have some 'fatal' flaw, but it's soon and carefully investigated, fixed, and from then on it's a very good aircraft. But because of human nature, the original problem carries on, and becomes 'an old wives tale', sorry girls ;-)

So, in summary, the original possible problem of metaldahyde slug/snail poisen being a big deal problem with household pets is, these days, hogwash, at least it you follow the instructions about proper application.

Both of us dearly love our cats, both for their wonderful personalities and the fact that they keep the deadly voles away. Oh, BTW, they're all beautiful children substitutes, but I digress.

After literally hundreds of hours of reading, I took the plunge, and have no regrets.

Our fantastic cats are still going great, along with all the birds, bees, worms, frogs, toads, and so forth and so on.

And, at least in years where I don't forget that the little buggers such as snails, cutworms, and such garden ruiners are running at least a few weeks early, such as I did this year, shame on me, the product keeps our gardens much more tour-worthy for many more weeks than those who don't attack the problem.

Here, at least, is our choice: Have a nice looking garden for 5 weeks, or 12 or so weeks (Zone 4).

Even though, with our size garden, it costs us about $120 do do a good job keeping it more hole-free each year, we find it is worth it.

As always, your results may vary, and fwiw,


    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 12:03AM
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