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Home » Blog » Mothballs as a Wildlife Repellent

Mothballs as a Wildlife Repellent

Mothballs have been used for decades as a way to repel pests like mice, rats, and snakes. While mothballs are often touted as a natural and safe way to repel pests, the truth is that they can be toxic if ingested. Mothballs contain chemicals like naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene, which can cause health problems if they are inhaled or ingested. In addition, some pests may develop resistance to mothballs over time, making them less effective.

Despite these concerns, many people continue to use mothballs as a way to repel pests like squirrels, skunks, and raccoons. Unfortunately, the serious harm that can be caused by the toxic vapors, pesticide fumes, or other dangerous pesticides by harsh repellents or poisons are not enough to deter their use. Unfortunately, many customers are willing to go to great lengths to get ride of mice in their home and fix their mouse problem - or other critter problem - once and for all.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of mothballs for repelling pests may depend on various factors, including which nuisance wildlife animal or pest you are dealing with, the size of the property, and level of the infestation.

Definition and Background on Mothballs

Overview of the Use of Mothballs as a Wildlife Repellent

Mothballs are commonly used as a wildlife repellent to keep pests such as mice, rats, snakes, and squirrels away from homes and gardens. However, there is limited scientific evidence to support their effectiveness as a wildlife repellent.

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What are Mothballs?

Mothballs are basically small compact balls of pesticide chemicals used to prevent or kill moths and other insects. They are typically made from either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene.

Historical Context of Mothball Use

Mothballs have been used for over a century to keep clothes moths and protect clothing and other items from moth damage. Over time, they have also been used as a general insect repellent and as a wildlife repellent.

Chemical Composition and Mechanism of Mothballs

Naphthalene mothballs release a gas that is toxic to moths and other insects. Paradichlorobenzene mothballs work by sublimating, or turning from a solid to a gas, which repels insects. Both types of mothballs are highly toxic and can be harmful to humans and pets if not handled appropriately.

Conventional Uses of Mothballs

Mothballs are frequently used to prevent moths from ruining clothes or other items from moth damage. They are also used as a general insect repellent and as a wildlife repellent. However, due to their toxicity, they should be used cautiously and only in well-ventilated areas.

Mothballs as a Wildlife Repellent

Why People Use Mothballs as Wildlife Repellent

Mothballs are commonly used as a wildlife repellent due to their strong odor, which is believed to deter animals from entering certain areas. The idea is that the strong smell of mothballs will make the area unattractive and dangerous to wildlife and encourage them to leave or avoid the area altogether. Does this actually work though? Let’s dive in. 

Wildlife Deterred by Mothballs

Some of the wildlife that people commonly use mothballs to repel include snakes, rats, mice, squirrels, skunks, and raccoons. However, there is limited scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of mothballs as a wildlife repellent. In the FAQ section below, we address some of these animals specifically.

Limitations and Efficacy of Using Mothballs for Wildlife

While mothballs may be effective in deterring some wildlife, they do have limitations. For example, the odor of mothballs may dissipate quickly in outdoor environments, making them less effective over time. Additionally, the use of mothballs can be harmful to both humans and animals if they are not used properly.

Therefore, it's important to use caution when using mothballs as a wildlife repellent and to consider other options, such as natural deterrents or professional wildlife removal services. It's worth noting that the use of mothballs for wildlife and rodent control, may not be legal in all areas, so we highly advise you check your local regulations before using them.

Health and Environmental Risks Associated with Mothball Use

Potential Health Hazards to Humans and Pets

Two active ingredients in mothballs include naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene, which are harmful to humans and most animals, including domestic pets, if ingested or inhaled in high concentrations. These chemicals can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and other health problems. If symptoms escalate, you can contact your local poison control center for additional advice and guidance.

The vapors released by mothballs can cause nose irritation and otherwise harm people with certain health conditions. While this can get rid of mice and other animals, we highly recommend to place mothballs only in the attic and not in living spaces.

In addition, mothballs can pose a choking hazard to small children and pets, who may mistake them for candy or toys. 

Environmental Impact and Risks to Non-target Wildlife

Mothballs can have a negative impact on the environment and kill non-target wildlife. When used outdoors, mothballs can contaminate soil and water, harming plants and animals. Mothballs can also be toxic to birds, fish, and other wildlife if ingested.

Moreover, mothballs are not effective at repelling all types of wildlife, and may harm beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies. It is safer to start with essential oils, such as peppermint oil, before resorting to more harmful chemical substances such as moth balls.

For these reasons, it is highly recommended that any mothballs not in use be kept in an airtight container. While a tightly closed container should minimize fumes and the foul odor, there is still a risk that toxic vapors leak out. This is why airtight containers are highly preferrable when storing mothballs to simple sealed container.

Legal Restrictions on Use of Mothballs as Wildlife Repellent

Due to the potential health and environmental risks associated with mothball use, many states and municipalities have placed restrictions on their use as wildlife repellents. In some areas, it is illegal to use mothballs for this purpose.

It is important to check with local authorities before using mothballs as a wildlife repellent to ensure that you are not violating any laws or regulations.

Overall, while mothballs may be effective at repelling certain types of wildlife, their use should be approached with caution due to the potential health and environmental risks. It is recommended to consider alternative methods of wildlife control and to always follow the manufacturer's instructions when using mothballs.

Alternative Wildlife Repellents

Description of Other Repellents

Moth balls are not the only option when it comes to repelling wildlife. There are a variety of alternatives available on the market, including natural remedies, electronic devices, and chemical repellents.

One natural repellent that is often recommended is peppermint oil. The strong scent of peppermint is said to be unpleasant to many animals, including mice, rats, and squirrels. Other natural options include predator urine, such as coyote or fox urine, and homemade sprays made from chili peppers or garlic.

Electronic devices, such as ultrasonic repellents, emit high-frequency sounds that are designed to repel mice, rodents and other pests. These devices are generally considered safe for humans and pets, but their effectiveness is debated. Rodent control often requires much more.

Chemical repellents, such as those made with capsaicin or ammonia, can also be effective at repelling wildlife. However, these products may be harmful to pets and children, and they should be used with caution.

Comparison of Efficacy and Safety of Alternatives

The efficacy and safety of alternative wildlife repellents can vary greatly. Natural remedies may be less harmful to the environment and safer to use around small children and pets, but they may not be as effective as chemical or electronic repellents.

Electronic devices are generally considered safe, but they are similarly ineffective. We regularly visit customers who have tried an electronic device for many weeks or months with no impact.

Chemical repellents can be effective, but they may also be harmful to pets and children. Cautious application is important though, and it should only be used where it will not come into direct contact with people or pets.

Recommendations for Use of Alternatives

While these repellents and deterrents can sometimes work, they are often just a band-aid solution. They unfortunately do not fix the root of the problem by keeping animals out of the home or commercial building in the first place. While they are an affordable first step, they often cost homeowners and property managers precious time and money by prolonging their critter issue.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it safe to have mothballs in the house?
    • No, it is not advisable to keep mothballs in a living area. Mothballs contain harmful chemicals that can be dangerous to both humans and pets. Even simply smelling mothballs can result in negative health consequences.
  • Do mothballs repel raccoons?
    • Yes, mothballs can be effective in repelling raccoons, but often at the expense of smelling them in the living space yourself. As anyone who has used them knows, mothballs have a very strong and distinct smell - which raccoons often do not like and want to avoid. Raccoons can be reluctant to give up their home, but mothballs can certainly help encourage them to leave. The issue is often that a large quantity is needed to create a strong enough odor - an odor than homeowners can usually smell themselves.
  • Will mothballs keep squirrels away?
    • Mothballs can be effective at keeping squirrels away, but similar to raccoons, putting mothballs in the attic often results in the entire house smelling - which can have negative health impacts.
  • Do mothballs keep rats away?
    • Mothballs rarely keep rats away unless significant quantities are put out and regularly re-applied. These higher quantities often result in a much stronger odor in the living space - an odor that can have negative health effects.
  • Does mothball keep mice away?
    • Not usually. Mice are both smart and adaptable. They also do not need a whole lot of real estate to create a nesting area, so physical deterrents like mothballs are rarely feasible (much less effective!).
  • Do mothballs keep snakes away?
    • No, mothballs do not keep snakes away. The most repulsive aspect of mothballs is the scent, which snakes do not fully take in since they “smell” through their tongues. 
  • Do mothballs repel skunks?
    • Yes, mothballs can repel skunks, though they are not manufactured to be used outside. They are typically most effective when applied in tight, low-ventilation areas. Spreading mothballs in your yar is not advisable, but it may be worth pouring a few down a skunk den that you find to help encourage relocation
  • What do mothballs repel?
    • Mothballs can repel some animals due to their odor, but it often comes at the expense of you or your family’s comfort, health, and safety. If they are used to repel something, it is best to apply them in a concentrated area - such as down a skunk den - for maximum results. 
  • How to use mothballs?
    • If you plan to use mothballs, it is important that you use them wisely - you do not want to be sifting through fresh, blow in insulation looking for loose mothballs that are causing a room in the living space to smell like mothballs. .


Recap of the Risks and Limitations of Using Moth balls as Wildlife Repellent

Mothballs are a commonly used method for repelling wildlife such as mice, rats keep mice, snakes, squirrels, skunks, and raccoons. However, mothballs are not a foolproof solution and come with several risks and limitations.

Mothballs contain naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene, which are toxic and can be harmful to humans and animals if ingested or inhaled. Secondly, mothballs have a limited range of effectiveness and may not be effective in repelling all types of wildlife. Thirdly, mothballs can be expensive and require frequent replacement to maintain their effectiveness.

Encouragement for Safe and Responsible Wildlife Management Practices

While moth balls may be a tempting solution for wildlife problems, it is important to prioritize safe and responsible wildlife management practices. This includes identifying and sealing entry points to prevent wildlife from entering homes or buildings, removing food and water sources, and using humane methods such as live traps to capture and release wildlife.

In addition, it is important to consider the potential harm that toxic chemicals such as moth balls can cause to the environment and other wildlife. Instead of moth balls, homeowners and property managers can consider using natural repellents such as peppermint oil, vinegar, or predator urine.

Overall, while moth balls may offer some benefits as a wildlife repellent, it is important to weigh the risks and limitations and prioritize safe and responsible wildlife management practices. If you live in the Dallas - Fort Worth Metroplex, Critter Stop can help you with that. Give us a call today for your free inspection and estimate!

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Best Practices for Wildlife Management

Preventative Measures

Preventative measures are the most effective way to keep wildlife from becoming a problem on your property. Here are some best practices to follow:

  • Keep your property clean and free of debris that could attract wildlife.
  • Store garbage and compost in secure containers with tight-fitting lids.
  • Seal up any holes or gaps in your home's exterior to prevent animals from entering.
  • Keep pet food indoors and feed pets indoors.
  • Trim back trees and shrubs that provide easy access to your roof or attic.

Non-harmful Deterrents

If wildlife becomes a problem despite your preventative measures, there are non-harmful deterrents you can use to keep them away. Here are some options:

  • Mothballs: While mothballs are often touted as a way to repel wildlife, they are not effective and can be harmful to humans and pets if ingested. It is best to avoid using mothballs altogether.
  • Ultrasonic devices: These emit high-frequency sounds that are meant to be unpleasant to animals. However, their effectiveness is questionable and they may not work on all species.
  • Motion-activated sprinklers: These devices spray water when an animal triggers a motion sensor. They can be effective at deterring some animals, but may not work on all species.

Role of Professional Wildlife Removal Services

If preventative measures and non-harmful deterrents are not effective, it may be time to call in a professional wildlife control service. These professionals will be able to safely and humanely remove animals from your property and take steps to prevent them from returning.

It is important to choose a reputable and licensed wildlife control service to ensure that animals are treated humanely and that the problem is resolved effectively.

Remember, it is important to take a humane and responsible approach to wildlife management. Avoid using harmful deterrents or methods that could cause unnecessary harm to animals.

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