Aw, isn't it cute: that little squirrel dashing around your yard, climbing trees with its bushy tail. But squirrels, however cute and fuzzy they may seem, are pests in the yard and, even worse, in the home. They not only dig up your flower bulbs and damage lawns and flower beds, but they also chew through wood and even wires and get in your walls to find a cozy place to nest.
Multiple products and services claim to deter squirrels, but not all of them work. Many websites promote the use of peppermint spray for squirrels, but other natural remedies are also recommended to deter squirrels, including hot pepper, vinegar, and garlic. Remember that these deterrents need to be reapplied regularly, as their strength will naturally dissipate over time.
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DIY Squirrel Repellent With Peppermint
Peppermint is a very strong scent, and it's generally understood that squirrels (and rats) are highly repelled by it, along with other powerful scents. Strong smells can overwhelm squirrels' senses, making it impossible for them to perform the necessary duties of finding food and shelter. However, this is also true of other wildlife, including birds. Peppermint may also deter birds, so if your goal is to protect your bird feeders from squirrels, you may also deter the birds themselves if you use peppermint oil or other essential oils.
You can either create a peppermint spray or soak cotton balls directly with peppermint oil. To create a spray, mix several drops of peppermint oil and water in a spray bottle. The oil will separate, so shake it well before applying. Spray this mixture wherever you want to deter squirrels. If you don't observe any effect, increase the ratio of peppermint oil to water to 50/50 — for example, mix 4 tablespoons of peppermint oil with 4 tablespoons of water.
To use cotton balls instead, apply at least five drops of peppermint oil onto a cotton ball. The stronger the scent, the more effective it will be. Place these in various areas around your home or garden where squirrels are a problem. Peppermint will mask the pheromone trail of rodents — and squirrels are rodents — so it will also deter other rodents from the area.
Other Natural Squirrel Repellents
Squirrels are known to dislike several other strong scents. Among them is hot pepper, or capsaicin, which is why several manufacturers offer bird food mixed with capsaicin to deter squirrels. Using red pepper — either red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper powder — can get expensive because you need to reapply it after each rain and also avoid it when irrigating. Nonetheless, shaking some powder onto your plants' leaves or on the ground where squirrels have been known to dig will deter critters, including squirrels and rats.
You can also try a garlic and vinegar solution and spray it. Dice one clove of garlic and add it to 1 cup of water and 1 cup of white vinegar. Let it sit for a few days and then strain it and put it into a sprayer.
You may have heard that some people use mothballs as squirrel repellents, placing them where there is squirrel activity. However, mothballs contain and emit toxins, and using them in this manner can endanger people, pets, and wildlife. Mothballs should never be left out in the open where they can be touched or eaten.