Everyday Enviro with Elise: natural pest control

Everyday Enviro with Elise: natural pest control

By Elise Catterall  June 8th, 2023

Elise implores gardeners to utilise natural pest control methods to ensure other species aren’t put at risk.


It’s difficult not to feel a little outraged by tell-tale signs of a devasting visit from snails, slugs or other pests on our beloved garden plants or vegetable garden.

But before you go reaching for chemical solutions, it is important to consider that you may be swapping one problem with an even more far-reaching one.

Snail bait and other poisons, like rat poison, are particularly destructive to birds, small dogs and other small animals like possums due to their high metabolic rate. When ingested, either directly or by feeding on these pests, they can cause terrible suffering for animals.

Recently, I had the distressing experience of finding several terminally poisoned pigeons in my backyard. All were taken to a vet who sadly had to put them down to end their suffering. This happened over a number of days and by the third bird (and the third visit to the vet), the vet was pretty certain that snail bait was the culprit.

Unfortunately, there were two more birds after this, all presenting the same way. I can’t express how horrible and terribly sad it was to see them suffering – not least because it was a result of snail bait.

The vet explained that they regularly see animals for treatment (and too often euthanased) due to ingesting a pesticide (or consuming an animal that has ingested a pesticide). The animals in this predicament may be pets like dogs, birds, both native and non-native, and wildlife like possums.

We should instead reach for effective, natural repellents for slugs and snails, for which there are many. Even humble coffee grounds and eggshells can successfully protect plants from being gobbled up.

If plants are at risk, a natural repellent is absolutely the best option because snails and slugs are actually a valuable part of our ecosystem. In fact, the CSIRO recently wrote a piece that expressed the need to reframe how we see snails and slugs in the urban environment. In that piece, they detail how important snails and slugs are to a healthy ecosystem, whether it be their role in breaking down organic matter or being a food source to blue tongue lizards and kookaburras. They are keystone species that boost biodiversity and ecosystem health.

All pesticides can cause harm to animals – and to the wider environment, especially in Australia.

Of course, people will argue that there can be a need for pesticides, but I feel that a genuine need would be rare. And certainly, all pesticides, no matter what they target (rats, mice, snails, even weeds) should be an absolute last resort – and used with the utmost care and consideration.

This is a plea to stop and think about what we are putting out into the environment and how it may have an impact on more than just the target ‘pest’.

Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes


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Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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