Mice have recently been spotted in my family’s neighborhood, and we’re growing a couple of pumpkin varieties this year. Naturally, we got a bit concerned and thought maybe we should be on the lookout. So, do mice and rats eat squash, or in this case, pumpkin?
Mice and rats eat enjoy eating pumpkin fruit, especially if the insides are exposed. The rodents are generally not as inclined to chew through the rind, but won’t hesitate to eat cracked pumpkins with exposed fruit. Often times, they’ll nibble at multiple pumpkins, instead of sticking to just one.
So, while your pumpkin plants might be in danger of field mice or rats, how do you know what to look for? After all, how do you know it’s not squirrels that are eating your pumpkin plants?
Will Mice and Rats Eat the Pumpkins in Your Garden?
Mice and rats can eat pumpkins in your garden and will often burrow under the fruit. They can also dig up the pumpkin seeds you sow and damage existing pumpkin plant roots. Some pumpkin farmers have had many pumpkins partially eaten from a mouse or rat infestation.
How Do You Know Mice and Rats Are Eating Your Pumpkin Plants?
If mice and rats are eating your pumpkin plants, you’ll often see small burrows in the ground either next to, or underneath the pumpkin fruit. Another sign is if the pumpkin is eaten at the base or the sides. Squirrels and rabbits would eat further up the sides, so they can be ruled out in that case.
Mice and rats can be found at both day or night. If the pumpkin fruit is split (or if you have jack-o-lanterns), this can be more appealing to them.
Pumpkin roots and vines are especially sensitive, and burrowing rodents like mice can cause some serious damage. Sometimes, mice and rats will damage multiple pumpkins, without eating much from any one fruit in particular. In extreme cases, they can ruin an entire pumpkin patch in a short amount of time.
However, squirrels are known to be more of a pest when it comes to pumpkins. The good news is that many of the prevention methods for mice and rats can also be used for squirrels.
How Do You Protect Your Pumpkin Plants From Mice and Rats?
If you suspect you have a mouse or rat problem on your homestead, check the pumpkin patch. If you’re seeing any damage to the fruit or small burrows nearby, it might be time to look into deterrents.
The best way to protect your pumpkin plants from mice and rats is to get a field cat or find a good repellent. If you’re out in the country, you can likely use traps, or build owl houses to naturally reduce the rodent population in your area.
If you live in an urban or suburban area, you may not be able to apply traps or other methods to catch mice and rats. In this case, getting an outdoor cat could be a natural and effective option. However, if you have coyotes around, please take caution as cats make for easy prey.
Now, I would strongly recommend against applying poison. While it might be effective, it can do much more damage than you intend. I worked at a Veterinarian’s office for 2 years and saw a few pets that got into rat poison. They didn’t survive.
Poison can also kill other animals in the area and can even be absorbed by your plants and pumpkins, which you then could eat. Overall, it’s usually not worth it to use as an option to deter mice and rats.
Some repellents can work against mice but need to be applied about once a week and more often if it rains. For this reason, repellents might not be a good option for you and your pumpkins.
Other ideas on how to deter mice and rats involve the use of permaculture. For example, if you live in a more rural area, you could install a few owl houses. Over time, owls will nest in the houses and hunt the mice, naturally reducing their population. This is by far my favorite choice to get rid of field mice and rats, but it’s not always possible.
Remember to also keep the area free of trash. Leaving trash around attracts many pests, the first of which are usually rodents. By eliminating trash, you are reducing their food source and their nesting area.
If you’re looking for good repellents to use in your garden, check out these mouse and rat repellents on Amazon.
Having field mice and rats in your pumpkin patch can spell trouble and can ruin large pumpkins yields. If you see tiny burrows and partially eaten pumpkins, there’s a good chance you have a rodent issue.
Consider using any of the deterrents above to help reduce the number of pumpkins damaged. But check your local laws before setting out traps or dispatching them. For best results, get a professional opinion by contacting your local exterminator and consider all of the available options.