How to Protect Your Carved Pumpkins from Pests

Updated: Feb. 08, 2024

Wildlife expert Meg Pearson shares her tips to keep critters away from your fresh jack-o-lanterns.

While carved pumpkins, flowers and gourds might brighten up your front porch, they also pose a hidden threat. Fall pests and critters look at those festive furnishings and see an all-you-can-eat buffet, thereby putting you at risk for an infestation.

To help you avoid unwanted houseguests, we spoke with Meg Pearson, training manager at Critter Control and a wildlife expert. Here are her recommendations for keeping your fall decorations — and home — safe from pests.

Q: Which Fall Decorations Are Critters Most Attracted to?

A: Pumpkins and gourds. Jack-o-lanterns are especially appetizing to critters because the guts and seeds are readily available from the carvings and opening.

Additionally, [pests] will go after flint corn and corn stalks; dried twigs and plants, such as those found in natural wreaths; and decorative flowers, whether fresh or dried.

Q: Which Pests Are Attracted to Carved Pumpkins?

A: Nuisance wildlife most commonly attracted to pumpkins and gourds include, but are not limited to: mice, rats, chipmunks, opossums, groundhogs, raccoons, deer, birds, foxes and more.

Q: What Are the Best Ways to Deter Pests from Gnawing on Carved Pumpkins?

A: One option is to put your decor on elevated surfaces, which can act as a deterrent for some critters that would have to climb to reach it.

When carving jack-o-lanterns, make sure to get all the wet interior out by scraping the inside clean and drying it with a paper towel. For an additional step, you can spray your pumpkins and gourds with a solution of water and vinegar. This helps preserve the cut plant, while also safely deterring pests without any harmful chemicals.

Additional deterrent options could include a motion sensor light. This option may not be effective for all nuisance animals and would likely only be temporarily effective for any that it would deter.

Lastly, applying cayenne pepper to the pumpkin can help deter animals from gnawing/eating the pumpkins and gourds.

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Q: What Are Some Other Preventative Measures to Stop Pests from Entering Your Home?

A: Remove shelter and as many food opportunities as possible. For your yard, this means raking leaves, removing debris or rock piles, and keeping it clean. Hardware cloth barriers can stop critters from getting into your garden.

For your home, you’ll also want to seal up any gaps in or around [it], such as areas under decks, any sort of visible gaps in the foundation or outside of your home. Critters seek shelter and warmth, and openings in your house provide that for them.

Finally, keeping trash tightly sealed, bringing in pets’ water and food dishes, and keeping areas where there are bird feeders clean will deter critters from your property.