These Simple Hacks Will Help Keep Bugs Away From Your Carved Pumpkins

Korin Miller
·3 min read

From Prevention

Carving a pumpkin is practically a required activity in the weeks leading up to Halloween. It’s fun to do with kids (and friends, with the right cocktail!), you’ll get to roast the pumpkin seeds for future snacking, and watch your jack-0-lantern light up as you put on a spooky Halloween movie.

But there’s just one problem: Over time, carved pumpkins can become serious bug magnets.

While spiders and other creepy crawlers are festive, you probably want to limit your decor to the fake, plastic kind. So, how can you keep bugs away from your carved pumpkin? Pest pros have a few tricks up their sleeves.

First, why are bugs attracted to carved pumpkins?

“Many insects, such as fruit flies, are attracted to decaying organic matter as a food source,” says Nancy Troyano, Ph.D., a board-certified entomologist and director of operations education and training for Ehrlich Pest Control. They also like to breed in these areas. “When the offspring hatches, they are surrounded by food, which ensures their survival,” Troyano explains.

Your pumpkin, just like other fruit, can be an attractive food source for pests—especially as it starts to decay. “Because a carved pumpkin rapidly begins to biodegrade once it is cut open, this makes it especially attractive to insects,” Troyano says.

For what it’s worth, the pests are actually helping to keep the planet healthy. “These insects naturally help recycle plant material back into the soil,” says Ben Hottel, Ph.D., technical services manager at Orkin. “If we didn’t have these insects, our forests and other natural environments would be littered with rotting plants that are only being broken down by fungus and bacteria.”

Photo credit: Linda Raymond - Getty Images
Photo credit: Linda Raymond - Getty Images

How to keep bugs away from your carved pumpkin

You’re not doomed to start out with a perfect jack-o-lantern and end up with a big, buggy mess. Here are a few ways to help your pumpkin last a bit longer:

✔️Pick a pumpkin that’s firm and free of damage. If your pumpkin is already damaged or nicked, the odds are high that it will decay faster than usual.

✔️Wait to carve your pumpkin. In general, Hottel says it’s really best to wait until one to two weeks before Halloween to carve your pumpkin to keep decay—and bugs—at bay.

✔️Remove as much of the inside as you can. The goal is to reduce moisture, since it “contributes to the decaying process,” Troyano explains. For the same reason, keep your pumpkin sheltered and out of the rain, as well as off the ground (which tends to be more moist). Place it on surfaces like cardboard or your porch instead.

✔️Place a citronella candle inside. Citronella candles tend to deter bugs like mosquitoes, Troyano points out. Place one inside your pumpkin for extra pest control.

✔️Brush away pests. Troyano recommends visually inspecting your pumpkin on a daily basis for bugs like ants. If you happen to spot them, brush them away.

✔️ Spritz on a bleach mixture. To make your pumpkin less attractive to bugs, Troyano recommends creating a mixture of bleach and water (try one teaspoon of bleach to one gallon of water) and spritzing the inside with the formulation. Afterward, turn your pumpkin upside down to let the solution drain out.

Finally, keep tabs on your pumpkin and its condition. When it starts to slump or decay, it’s time to toss it, Hottel says.

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