Keep Squirrels away with These Repellents

DIY Squirrel Repellents.

I must admit. I have been so proud of my vegetable garden this year.  I doubled the size of it from the one I had last year and it is now over 1000 square feet.

My family’s favorite vegetable is the tomato and I wanted to make sure I had enough to last until the frost which is about late October here in NC. So, I planted 18 tomato plants thinking that would be more than enough.

And it was, until a few weeks ago.  You can read about my squirrel disaster here.

After losing all my corn and much of my potential tomato harvest, I decided I had to do something.  I researched, and asked on my gardening page on Facebook for tips on how to keep the squirrels away.

Suggestions ranged from:

  1. Get a BB gun or air rifle
  2. “Feed them something else so they won’t get your vegetables”
  3. “I love my squirrels and they know and never eat my veggies.”
  4. Put out water for them. They are thirsty.
  5. Put out mothballs – they hate it
  6. Put out cayenne pepper – they hate it
  7. Make a spray of cayenne pepper – they hate it.
  8. Trap them and relocate them. (check your state laws first. This is illegal in some states.)

You get the idea.

I contacted a good friend of mine who also writes a garden blog. She told me I was lucky it was not a drought year, or I would have NOTHING left in my garden now that the squirrels have discovered it.  She voted for #1.

I decided to try a combination of #5 and #6 for these repellants, but I have reservations about them as listed at the end of the article.  Please read the whole thing. Moth balls are dangerous in many ways.  Be sure to consider this if you are an organic gardener.

DIY Squirrel Repellants.

Please note:  The comment section below should be used in conjunction with this article.  I am also learning as I experiment with gardening.

****Please be aware that this is, by no means an organic gardening method.  Mothballs are chemical in nature.  Also , this is not to be tried if you have animals or children in your garden.  Moth balls can look like candy and children might be tempted by them.****

DIY Squrrel RepellentsYou will need these materials:

  • Plastic condiment trays
  • Glue Gun
  • Glue sticks
  • Moth Balls
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Bamboo Skewers
  • Scotch Tape
  • Hole punch

Materials for squirrel repellants

Start out by punching holes all along the outer sides of the condiment cups.  This allows the smell to escape which is what the squirrels supposedly do not like.

Punch the condiment cupsNext, use the glue gun to attach the bamboo skewers to the bottom of the condiment cups and allow them to set. This part takes a while. Use a lot of hot glue and be patient.

Cuts with bamboo skewers attachedAt this point, your trap is ready.  Take the moth balls, cayenne pepper and tape outside to your garden.    If you have a problem with the moth balls being used, you could try just the cayenne pepper in the repellants to see if this will work.

It is easier to do this when they are in the garden than to put the stuff in the cups inside.  Plus not so smelly!  Add three or four moth balls (if you wish to use them)  and a liberal dose of cayenne pepper to the cups when you get to the place where you want to put them.

cups filled with mothballs and cayenne pepper

Tape the lid with scotch tape so it stays put.

closed squirrel deterrant cup.Place the finished squirrel deterrents near the plants you think the squirrels might go after about every 8 feet or so.   I put mine in a new patch of summer squash, since I know they like them.

Sqruirrel deterrents in the garden.That is all there is to it.  Very little cost (less than $5 for as many as you could use). The hardest part for me was trying to find the condiment cups without buying 5000 of them at Sam’s club.   A very nice person at a bar that my husband likes to go to with his friends took pity on him after three days of searching and gave him some for me to use.  Thanks to the English bar maid at O’Malley’s Pub in Raleigh, NC.

Will these work? Time will tell.

Are they safe for use? 

I am concerned about this. The smell of the moth balls was just horrible.  I only opened the box of them and could smell them for HOURS afterwards in the house.

Since they don’t actually sit near the vegetables themselves, I felt they would probably be okay, but am still undecided.  I am going to make sure that I wash anything I bring in that is anywhere near them just to make sure.

If you have used something like this to deter squirrels, please leave your comments below and particularly your thoughts on the mothballs.  I have heard of people who actually fill socks with them and leave them in the garden, so I assume a few moth balls will be fine, but be careful. I’ll add more info on this as it comes to me from research and comments.

UPDATE:  **Please read the main large comment below.**  I feel that it is important information that should go along with this article.  Many thanks to Dawn who took the time to write the comment!

In hind sight, the idea of #7  – a cayenne pepper spray, is perhaps the best idea and I will write another article on how to make this and use it.  

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  40 comments for “Keep Squirrels away with These Repellents

  1. Dawn
    07/28/2013 at 6:34 pm

    The mothballs are toxic insecticide. If you are trying to garden organically then be aware of this. They cause brain damage and even death in children by the way.
    From web MD
    Mothballs are a pesticide product that contain either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene as active ingredients. Both of these chemicals are toxic fumigants (which means they volatilize into the air) and must be present in high concentrations to be effective. This is the problem. Concentrations high enough to be effective for pest control can be dangerous for anyone exposed to them.
    Mothballs can seriously impair indoor air quality. In fact, the odor of mothballs can be detected at a few parts per billion in the air. (One part per billion is about several drops of water in an Olympic-size swimming pool.)
    What are the potential health impacts?
    Symptoms of exposure to naphthalene include headache, nausea, dizziness, and difficulty breathing. Exposure to large amounts of naphthalene may damage or destroy some of your red blood cells. This condition is called hemolytic anemia. Some symptoms of hemolytic anemia are fatigue, lack of appetite, restlessness, and pale skin. Exposure to large amounts of naphthalene may also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the urine, and a yellow color to the skin. Based on the results from animal studies, the Department of Health and Humans Services (DHHS) concluded that naphthalene is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.
    Paradichlorobenzene exposure has been linked to nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, eye and nasal passage irritation, and dermal irritation. If a pet eats a mothball made of paradichlorobenzene, they may have vomiting, tremors, and/or abdominal pain. Paradichlorobenzene may also cause kidney and liver damage in pets.The World Health Organization (WHO) considers paradichlorobenzene possibly carcinogenic to humans based on studies with mice.

    Personally I would not use them. They are not organic but chemical in nature. I would go for the cayenne spray before thinking about the moth balls.

    • admin
      07/28/2013 at 8:26 pm

      thank you for taking the time to write the comments. This was my main concern.

      My garden is fenced from my pets and I have no children but I do not want to do anything to cause problems in our food.

      I have read that making a cayenne pepper spray and spraying it right on the leaves of plants the squirrels might like is another option.

      have you tried a cayenne spray and how does it work with the squirrels?


    • Tom p
      05/17/2014 at 3:08 pm

      Used mothballs for decades to reduce winter animal and bug damage at our summer home. Didn’t do much about mice, but find about insects.

      I wouldn’t hesitate using them as directed on package.

      05/09/2015 at 2:50 pm

      TY Lady Dawn for the heads up.

      I always knew that moth balls were bad, but I never knew just how bad…Thanks to you, now I know.

  2. Priscilla
    07/30/2013 at 9:06 am

    I love feeding the birds but no matter where I put the feeders the good old squirrels eat the food and chew off the bottoms or the perches ,, would this cayenne pepper bother the birds if somehow I could put the pepper around the seeds ,,, ?

    • 08/01/2013 at 3:10 am

      I’ve heard that the cayenne spray doesn’t bother the birds at all, though I’ve never tried it – I don’t have a
      squirrel problem, just deer and hares!

    • admin
      08/01/2013 at 6:44 pm

      The moth ball part might affect the birds but the cayenne should be fine. Squirrels are the ones who just don’t like cayenne. Once they try an area where it is, they usually don’t come back.

    • Tom p
      05/17/2014 at 3:10 pm

      Mix the cayenne with vegetable oil, soak bird feed in it. Birds don’t have mucus member sins in mouth so supposedly does not harm them. Squirrels supposedly get that jot pepper taste and leave it alone.

      Never noticed it reduced their attempts to set birdseed, however….

      05/09/2015 at 2:48 pm

      It is my experience that Cayenne Pepper has little or no effect on your common back yard birds.

      The reason for this is that birds do not have taste buds like squirrels do…so birds do not taste the pepper where as the pepper drives squirrels crazy in a bad way. one taste of the pepper is usually all it takes for the squirrels to learn not to touch the bird feed…and most often one whiff is enough.

      So if you want an organic, all natural squirrel repellent, Cayenne Pepper I believe is the way to go.

      • admin
        05/10/2015 at 9:02 pm

        The squirrels have decided that my plants on the deck in pots are fair game this year. I will definitely use the cayenne spray. Carol

    • 06/06/2016 at 12:25 pm

      I had a problem with squirrels eating all the birdseed from my feeder. That wasn’t enough for them, though. I stored the feed in a large plastic trash can on the deck. They chewed holes through top of lid! Fortunately I found a metal bird feeder that has a perch which closes the opening that allows the bird feed to be dispensed every time a squirrel sets foot on the perch. Also, I bought a small metal trash can for the bird feed, and store it in the garage. I now have a small platform that holds an ear of dried corn (which the squirrels love ) within three feet of the bird feeder, and the squirrels totally ignore the bird feeder.

      • Carol
        06/06/2016 at 12:33 pm

        My squirrels have decided that all of my strawberry plants will be this year’s feast. I have yet to get a ripe strawberry from them. Carol

    • Angelina
      11/05/2016 at 9:11 am

      I feed all birds. Lol however I also have squirrels and chipmunks everywhere. A squirrel guard is a great you can get them at tractor supply, Walmart or even lowes.
      I have use cayenne spray in my garden more for rabbits it works great!

      • Carol
        11/05/2016 at 10:41 am

        We used to have a lot of owls in the woods nearby and the squirrels were kept under control. Does not seem to be the case lately. Carol

  3. Linda
    07/31/2013 at 6:38 pm

    Last year I sprayed my tomatoes with a mixture of cayenne pepper and water. I also sprayed around the garden because of opossums and raccoons. It seemed to do the trick. I also heard they did not like the smell of Avon Skin So Soft so I mixed that with water and sprayed the fence and about 3 feet from the garden. One or the other worked, I didn’t have any problems after I started doing that. I would never use mothballs either! To keep the varmints out of my potted plants I put rocks around them. They are from a creek and are rough. Squirrels don’t like rough things. I put plastic forks in the hanging plants and that keeps out the birds.

    • admin
      08/01/2013 at 6:45 pm

      thanks for sharing this. Lots of people seem to agree that the cayenne is the way to go, which appeals to me since I was not so comfortable with the moth ball part.


  4. Annie G
    08/01/2013 at 6:50 am

    Cayenne Pepper? I mixed it with my bird seed as instructed … did NOT stop them !! They sat there eating it anyway, obviously bothered by the Cayenne Pepper, but did not slow them down one bit.. 🙁

    • admin
      08/01/2013 at 6:46 pm

      LOL I’ve heard both pros and cons. I think the cayenne in boiled water, sprayed all over plants works pretty well. Have not tried it in bird seed though.

  5. Nicole
    08/01/2013 at 5:08 pm

    I had a problem with squirrels in my garden. The way I resolved them getting in there was cheap and easy! I went to Dollar Tree and bought some children’s pinwheels and placed them around the outer edge of the garden. This has worked wonders and I don’t have to use any chemicals. I have tried Cayenne Pepper, but after it rains you have to reapply and it can get costly.

    • admin
      08/01/2013 at 6:47 pm

      I’ve heard that about the pinwheels. We don’t have wind here much so I sort of discounted it. Apparently the ones that are very shiny work well!


      • Pam
        08/06/2013 at 11:35 am

        I have tried the pinwheels and they didn’t work. Also tried wind chimes and that didn’t do any good. The moth balls do work but I just have used them around the house and deck to keep the squirrels away. We have planted corn two years only to have the squirrels dig them up for the seed. So we decided that next year we are going to enclose the garden. Will build sections like screen doors and attach them together making sure that two sections can be opened as doors.

        • admin
          08/06/2013 at 12:38 pm

          There are many veggies that I can enclose but I like to grow indeterminate tomatoes. That makes it so much harder. I doubt I will plant any corn next year, because that is what brought them to the garden in the first place.


          • Pam
            08/07/2013 at 3:35 pm

            My boyfriend has it all planned out. He is going to hinge each of the sections together so that they can be opened and then taken down in the fall. We love corn and with all the things they are trying to do to seeds to make them grow faster and what not I would rather grow my own. This way I can get organic seeds and know I am eating the real thing. I have had some problems this year with my tomatoes being eaten when they are almost ripe. We put chicken wire around them and it seems to be helping. It just is a pain to take a section of it off when I need to weed the garden area.

  6. Trudy
    08/07/2013 at 6:07 am

    We just moved a couple of months ago.ea which we have a huge yard and garden area. We have several large pecan, black walnut and chestnut trees which we love. We are looking forward to when we can gather everything. Our problem is that our neighbors say that we will be lucky to get anything before the squirrels do. We would appreciate any information and ideas that n give us.

    • admin
      08/07/2013 at 10:26 am

      HI Trudy,

      Not sure I am much help. I am still battling with them. They pretty much destroyed my garden this year no matter what I did.

      Trapping and relocating is most humane and sure way.

      • Bre
        09/01/2013 at 7:04 pm

        Believe it or not, it is illegal to relocate squirrels in many states. Check with your state wildlife department first.

        • admin
          09/01/2013 at 7:12 pm

          Did not know that Bre. Thanks for the tip!

      • Tom p
        05/17/2014 at 3:13 pm

        If there are that many squirrels in the neighborhood, the humane thing is harvesting them. Making #1 the best choice. Meat us edible, skins can be cured and used for multiple things, tails are used for fly tieing and fishing lures.

  7. Rachel
    04/10/2014 at 7:39 pm

    My mother has been waging a personal battle with squirrels in her backyard for several years now. She has a flower garden, and has regularly seen the squirrels run up, grab a bud, nibble on it, and then throw it down. Her solution was have-a-heart trapping (she lives in Florida – don’t know if it’s legal or not) and relocating to either her church or my sisters house – both more than 5 miles away. After trapping 64 squirrels, 2 opossums, and 1 rather large rat (yikes!), she gave up. More squirrels just moved in to replace those that were relocated. So relocating is not a great solution, either.

    • admin
      04/10/2014 at 10:13 pm

      Hi Rachel. It does seem never ending with them. This year, I am trying a mix of some vegetables and mainly perennials in the same bed to see if I can at least save my veggies. We’ll see!


  8. Liz
    06/23/2014 at 11:01 am

    Please be careful when using cayenne pepper or black pepper. I’ve read rabbits, squirrels, etc. don’t have good tear ducts and they can’t flush the pepper if it gets into their eyes. Apparently they’ve been known to scratch their eyes out trying to relieve the pain 🙁

  9. Holly
    08/04/2015 at 7:22 am

    i have read that cayenne pepper can get into the squirrels’ eyes and some have actually scratched their eyes out trying to stop the burn. I stopped putting it in the feeders, sounded too sad

    • admin
      08/04/2015 at 9:33 am

      Hi Holly. I have not heard that. I will research it a bit more. Everything that I have read tells me that squirrels really don’t like the smell of it and stay away. Carol

  10. Crystal
    05/30/2016 at 8:21 am

    There’s organic products that I have tried and some reduce the problem while others do nothing at all. I used Natures-defense animal repellent along with cayenne pepper spray. Seems to be the most effective.

    • Carol
      05/31/2016 at 6:16 pm

      thanks for the tip on the product Crystal.

  11. kati
    05/31/2016 at 10:26 pm

    would fake snakes do the trick? I’ve also read that pollinators don’t like the cayenne pepper either 🙁

    • Carol
      05/31/2016 at 10:32 pm

      Now that is one thing I did not think of! It would be good to try them to see. Carol

  12. Tina
    07/02/2016 at 2:16 pm

    So in the end, did the boiled cayenne pepper work? My radishes were just dug up:-(

    • Carol
      07/02/2016 at 2:39 pm

      Hi Tina. It did work but needs reapplying which is a pain. The squirrels are eating my strawberries this year. I have yet to get a single berry. Carol

  13. 09/05/2016 at 10:33 pm

    Grey ground squirrels will kill: chickens, birds, and carry disease. Relocation is cruel- they get killed by the resident squirrel pack. New ones come and fill the holes. Only things to do: shoot them, use gallons of hot pepper or let them get in your attic and eat the wires and burn your house down. Grey squirrels are not the native red ones. They are aggressive and will bite humans if cornered. It would take a bucket of moth balls and they evaporate in a warm day. Moth balls are a nasty chemical to humans.

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