There’s nothing quite like the month of October here in the Hudson Valley. The leaves are turning shades of gold, orange and red. The weather is just about perfect, there are tons of fall festivals, and you can pick your own apples and pumpkins. Not to mention the fun Halloween decorations. About those decorations…

I’ve been reading story after story about jack o’ lanterns and pests. Like rats. In fact, there are cities in the Boston area that are actually asking residents to either use fake jack o’ lanterns or bring them inside because they don’t want to chance a rat infestation. I certainly can’t blame them.

It got me wondering. If Boston rats love jack o’ lanterns, chances are Hudson Valley rats also love jack o’ lanterns. I know Hudson Valley squirrels seem to like them. Last year, I saw at least 5 of my Facebook friends post pictures of squirrels eating their carved pumpkins. Squirrels are basically rats with fluffy tails. And it’s not just rats and squirrels, either.

According to the Arrow Exterminating website, jack o’ lanterns also attract fruit flies and ants, snails, slugs, mice, groundhogs and other rodents. Ugh. I already have an annoying groundhog that got most of my summer vegetables from my garden, the last thing I want to do is feed him my Halloween decorations.

Luckily, I also learned some ways to discourage these disgusting critters from invading your pumpkins and your home. Make sure your pumpkin is fresh. Apparently insects and rodents find rotten pumpkins irresistible. A citronella candle in place of a regular one may help keep pests away. Impactpest.com suggests putting a thin layer of petroleum jelly on the outside of the pumpkin to help make it last longer. And spraying the pumpkin with hairspray or acrylic finishing spray may keep pests from biting the pumpkin.

So, as you put out your Halloween witches, cobwebs, skeletons and dreaded jack o’ lanterns, keep in mind that you may be inviting unwanted guests. And I’m not talking about egg throwing teens. As for me, I’ve noticed those fake jack o’ lanterns are looking better every year.

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