Pumpkins are an essential part of many cultural fall celebrations. Carving a pumpkin is a fun activity, and after effortlessly putting out every detail, we want to display it on our porch. But there is one problem: ants. They also cannot fail to notice this handiwork.
The gooey orange flesh and the pulp that collects at the bottom of a pumpkin are just too tempting for ants to pass up. They can smell the pumpkin from far away and may bring their entire colony over.
Once a swarm gets into the pumpkin and starts eating it, they can decimate it, forcing you to throw it out. After your hard work, the last thing you want is these hungry critters feasting on your decor.
Seeing a droopy pumpkin covered with ants on your porch is unpleasant. To keep them out of the Jack-o’-lantern, take preventive measures. Some tried-and-true techniques that can help keep your carving creations for longer include:
- Picking the right pumpkin.
- Scraping the inside thoroughly.
- Treating the inside and outside.
Jack-o’-Lanterns are a great way to spread seasonal cheer around your house.
Read on for additional tips on how to keep these critters out!
With all the work that goes into creating a pumpkin into a masterpiece, all you’d want is to keep ants out and nowhere around it. Wondering how to do it? This post outlines useful tips and answers to frequently asked questions.
6 Steps To Keep Ants Out of Jack-o’-Lantern
Once you pick pumpkins off the vine and place them on your porch, they can attract a lot of bugs. Take steps to prevent ants from destroying them, especially if you plan to put your Jack-o’-Lantern out a few weeks before the actual day.
What’s worse, if you let ants have their way, they can infest your pumpkins and quickly find their way inside your house.
Here are practical ways to ward off these critters:
Step #1: Pick the Best Pumpkin
Not every pumpkin is the same. Choosing a carving pumpkin over a pie pumpkin is the first step toward picking an ideal vegetable.
Pumpkins used for carving are big, have thicker skin, and contain fewer interior contents.
Look for a ripe pumpkin ready for carving from your neighborhood pumpkin patch or the grocery store.
Ensure you pick up the pumpkin by the bottom instead of the stem and consider visually inspecting it.
The telltale signs of a perfect pumpkin you should look out for include:
- Smooth bruise-free skin with no cracks or holes that may cause it to rot quickly and give way to burrowing critters.
- Firmly attached and green stem: Beware of pumpkins with brittle stems.
- Hard skin: Consider tapping it with your finger. You should hear a hollow sound. Put your thumb against the bottom to inspect it. The pumpkin is not a suitable choice if the skin crumbles, and it will give ants easy access.
Our next step is to choose a pumpkin with consistently firm skin to withstand scraping.
Step #2: Thoroughly Clean the Pumpkin
It is messy work digging out the pumpkin’s insides. Ensuring you scrape out all the seeds and other internal parts is the first step in protecting your pumpkins.
When it’s time to carve your pumpkin into a Jack-o’-Lantern, make a good-sized opening in the bottom or on one side of the pumpkin, and then scoop out as much of the pulp as you can.
Apply a decent amount of pressure and scrub the interior of the pumpkin wall using a spoon, spatula, or small putty knife. The stringy flesh is what ants enjoy the most, so ensure you leave it as clean as possible.
The more thorough you are when cleaning out your Jack-o’-Lantern before carving it, the less likely it will be that ants will ruin your hard work.
Instead of discarding the innards, you can try to leave a plate of seeds and the fleshy pulp in the yard as an easy meal. The hungry ants get distracted and fill up on these instead of your pumpkins.
Step #3: Treat the Outside and Inside of the Pumpkin
Most Jack-o’-Lanterns attract crawling bugs a few hours after carving. You can prevent this by treating the outside with lemon juice after carving. The acid in lemon juice helps in the following:
- Keeping insects away by preventing oxygen from reacting with the pumpkin enzymes.
- Preserving the pumpkin color.
- Keeping the pumpkin from rotting.
You can also coat the outside with vaseline or vegetable oil to create a protective barrier. You can protect the outside of the pumpkin with lemon juice, vegetable oil, or vaseline, but what about the fleshy inside?
Ants dislike bleach, and spraying the inside of your Jack-o’-Lantern with bleach prevents them from crawling inside. Mix one teaspoon of bleach with one liter of water and spray on the pumpkin’s interior and the surfaces where it is placed.
Besides keeping ants out, bleach water also:
- Keeps the pumpkin’s interior moist.
- Prevents rotting.
- It is an antibacterial agent that prevents mold growth.
After spraying the inside with bleach formulation, turn your pumpkin upside down to let the solution drain.
Peppermint Castile soap is another suitable treatment.
In a spray bottle, mix one tablespoon of peppermint Castile soap into one liter of water and spray the pumpkin’s interior.
Peppermint is an excellent ant deterrent with anti-fungal qualities and will give your pumpkin a pleasant scent.
Ensure you do this before setting up the Jack-o’-Lantern, so it has time to dry out.
Step #4: Store Your Pumpkin Properly
Prolonging the life of your Jack-o’-Lantern and protecting it from ants depends on how you store it. Warm weather and direct sun can speed decay in a pumpkin, providing a breeding ground for ants.
Avoid humid places and keep your cut pumpkins in a cool, dry place, such as in a cool basement or the garage, when not on display.
Freezing temperatures are just as harmful, and pumpkins left outside or frozen in the refrigerator will become mushy when they thaw, creating suitable environments for ants.
For the same reason, keep your pumpkin off the ground, which is moister and gives ants easy access. Place it on surfaces like cardboard or your porch instead.
Because nocturnal ants and their friends cannot resist munching a carved pumpkin, consider storing your Jack-o’-Lantern inside or somewhere protected outdoors, like an enclosed porch—overnight and during viewing downtimes.
If you don’t feel like switching the location of your decorations every night, wrapping them with cling film will keep ants from laying your display to waste.
Step #5: Use Natural Deterrents
To prevent an infestation, using natural repellents is an effective means of ant control.
You can easily make the sprays at home using a variety of readily available products that include:
Fill a spray bottle with equal parts of lemon juice and warm water.
Mix the solution well and spray surfaces on your porch.
Follow the ant’s trail and spray the solution where they have established their colony.
This common household fix-all also makes an excellent remedy.
Mix a 50-50 water and vinegar solution and spray it around where you have displayed your Jack-o’-Lantern.
Ants can smell vinegar even after it dries; undiluted vinegar works just as great.
You can also consider wiping your gourds down with a thin coating of vinegar.
Whether red, black, or cayenne, pepper is spicy and works by irritating the ants.
Sprinkle pepper around the pumpkin’s interior and exterior to deter them from snacking.
You may need to reapply after every two days.
Learn more about how to keep ants from your apartment here.
Step #6: Do a Daily Check
The best way to prevent ants from entering your pumpkin is to check on it regularly, just as you would if it were still growing in the garden. Add this duty to your daily activity, like walking the dog.
Ask yourself: Does it need an extra lemon juice coating? Is it time to move it out of the sun?
Consider visually inspecting it daily, and if you spot ants, brush them off.
Carving Jack-o’-Lantern is a fun activity for the young and old alike.
As fun as it is to turn pumpkins into creative works of art, finding ants swarming inside is unpleasant.
A recap on the measures to keep them out is:
- Choosing an ideal pumpkin.
- Scraping the inside thoroughly.
- Treating the interior and outside.
- Storing it properly.
- Using natural deterrents.
- Giving it a daily check.
These critters will stay out by following these tips, and your creations will stay on your front step or porch.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Refrigerate a Jack-o’-Lantern?
Yes! Refrigerating your carved pumpkin each night helps to rehydrate it and ward off ants and other critters. This is ideal if you live in warm places. Before refrigerating, spray it with peppermint, then wrap it with cling film.
How Long Do Carved Pumpkins Last?
Carved pumpkins last 3 to 5 days, but weather can influence your lantern’s life.
Your pumpkin might stay up to a week if you live in a cold climate, but if you expose it to heat, it only lasts a few days.