How to Keep Pests From Eating Your Jack-o-Lantern

by Team eLocal
A rotting jack-o-lantern sits on the dirt with green foliage in the background, pumpkin, jack-o-lantern, gourd, rotting pumpkin, rotting jack-o-lantern, rotten, collapsed, orange, Halloween, holiday decorations

Carving jack-o-lanterns is a fall favorite for all ages. Nothing says Halloween quite like carved pumpkins on the porch.

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But it's sad to see your pumpkin art demolished by pests after spending so much time designing and carving it perfectly. You can take some preventative steps to protect your prized pumpkin from the pests that try to bug them.

What Kind of Bugs May Your Jack-O-Lantern Attract?

That prize-worthy jack-o-lantern you carved was a living, growing plant not long ago. Once you carve it, the pumpkin begins to rot and deteriorate. At the same time, pests crawl right up to the all-you-can-eat buffet of pumpkin gunk, which can destroy your pumpkin even more. Fruit flies, ants, earwigs, squash bugs and gnats are common pests you'll see around a jack-o-lantern.

The outer skin serves as a protective layer that keeps pests out. As soon as you cut through the skin, you create an instant access point for all the things that will cause your jack-o-lantern to deteriorate. Jack-o-lanterns also tend to grow fungus, bacteria and mold, which can attract more pests and make them decompose faster.

What Are Some Ways to Keep Insects Out of Your Carved Pumpkins?

The best way to keep pests away from your jack-o-lantern is to wait as long as possible to carve it. Waiting until a night or two before Halloween gives your pumpkin art the best chance to survive rotting and pest attacks. Here are some additional tips to help:

  • Pick a sturdy pumpkin. If you start with an older pumpkin that's already rotting, it won't last long once the pests invade. Pick a sturdy pumpkin without any soft spots or obvious blemishes on the outside.
  • Remove everything. Digging out the guts of the pumpkin is a messy job, but cleaning out the pumpkin well can cut down on pest guests inside your jack-o-lantern. It leaves less food for pests and can help reduce mold growth.
  • Protect it. Coating the exterior of your pumpkin with lemon juice might help it last longer. Spraying the inside of your carved pumpkin with a 10% bleach solution diluted with water can cut down on microorganisms on the pumpkin that can make it rot faster. Spraying it daily can help even more. Dump out the excess bleach water, as letting it pool in the bottom could lead to more rotting. You can also rub petroleum jelly on the cut areas to protect those spots.
  • Limit heat exposure. Heat from the sun and candles makes your pumpkin rot faster. Keep your jack-o-lantern out of the sun as much as possible. Instead of a traditional candle, try an LED candle or glow stick inside the jack-o-lantern.
  • Minimize moisture. Rain can also affect your pumpkins. Lots of moisture speeds up the decaying process and causes mold growth.
  • Make it spicy. If you have trouble with squirrels and other animals eating your jack-o-lanterns, try putting hot sauce or hot pepper flakes inside the pumpkin to deter them. Peppermint essential oil can also help repel squirrels.
  • Use citronella candles. If you decide to use a real candle instead of an LED alternative, choose a citronella candle. This type of candle helps repel some types of bugs.

Doing as many things as possible to slow decay and make your jack-o-lanterns less appealing to bugs can help them last longer.

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Do Other Animals Bother Jack-O-Lanterns?

Bugs aren't the only pests that like pumpkins. Rats, mice and squirrels might also help themselves to your jack-o-lantern. Keeping your lawn clean by mowing regularly, removing debris and trimming bushes can minimize rodents near your home, which can help keep them away from your jack-o-lanterns. An owl decoy might also discourage some larger pests from nearing your jack-o-lanterns. Plus, owls work well with Halloween decor, so they'll fit right in. If you live in an area with rodents, keep your jack-o-lanterns away from your door to keep the rodents from trying to get inside your home.

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