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Keeping This in Your Yard Could Be Attracting Rats, Officials Warn

Experts are already warning people to refrain from keeping these outdoors this year.

While few people are eager to find a steady stream of roaches, ants, or spiders making themselves at home in their yard, there are few pests that inspire the same level of disgust as rats—and with good reason. Not only do they frequently make their way into homes, nestling in storage boxes, gnawing through electrical wires, or eating your food, they're also capable of transmitting a number of diseases to humans. Rats are known carriers of everything from salmonellosis to plague, potentially making those who come into contact with them seriously ill, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And while you may do what you can to limit pest activity indoors, there's one common item in your yard that could be making it look like a comfy spot for rats to call home. If you want to keep these pests at bay, read on to discover what could be attracting rats to your yard.

RELATED: 7 Cleaning Habits That Attract Mice.

Keeping jack-o'-lanterns in your yard could attract rats.

three jack o lanterns sitting in yard outside of a suburban home
Pavel L Photo and Video/Shutterstock

While carving a jack-o'-lantern and setting it out on your stoop or front porch for others to admire may be a beloved ritual for many Halloween enthusiasts, it's not just your neighbors who might take notice of your handiwork.

According to Boston 25 News, jack-o'-lanterns are a popular food source for rats.

The Boston suburb of Watertown has had an influx of new construction that's led to an influx of rats in recent months, leading Larry Ramdin, Watertown's director of public health, to ask residents to refrain from leaving their jack-o'-lanterns outside this year. "Once they find a food source, they don't keep it a secret," explained Ramdin. "'Hey Joe down the street has jack-o'-lanterns and it's really good pumpkins, so you want to check it out.'"

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Bringing your pumpkins indoors at night may help.

hands holding jack-o-lantern on table indoors
Shutterstock/Syda Productions

If you want keep rats from laying waste to your Halloween display, bringing your pumpkins in at night can help.

Non-domesticated rats are nocturnal and typically afraid of humans, according to the Humane Wildlife Control Society, meaning they're less likely to strike during daylight hours. If you don't feel like switching the location of your decorations every day, setting out fake pumpkins instead of real ones can give you a similar look without attracting pests.

Yet another way to keep pests at bay is to limit conditions that may cause your jack-o'-lantern to rot faster. The pest control experts at Terminix note that picking a particularly firm pumpkin, keeping your jack-o'-lantern out of direct sunlight and freezing temperatures, and using LED lights or glowsticks instead of candles can keep your jack-o'-lantern intact for longer. Once it starts to rot, toss it to keep pests from swarming.

There are certain natural deterrents that can keep rats at bay.

essential oils in amber bottles next to dried flowers

If you do choose to leave your jack-o'-lantern outdoors, there are certain ways to make it seem less appealing to pests.

According to a 2010 study published in the Thai Journal of Veterinary Medicine, certain essential oils are effective at deterring rats. In particular, the study's authors found that a combination of wintergreen and chili oils, wintergreen oil mixed with peppermint oil and bergamot oil, and bergamot combined with geranium oil, were particularly effective at keeping rats from chewing and tearing pieces of cardboard offered to them.

…But chemical deterrents may work better.


While spritzing your jack-o'-lantern with essential oils may be a safe way to make them a less appealing snack for pests, chemical deterrents may be even more effective.

Ammonia, bleach, and mothballs are particularly good at repelling rats, according to Midway Pest Management. Applying these scents on or near your jack-o'-lantern may help prevent your prized pumpkin from becoming rat food.

RELATED: If You Live in These States, Prepare for a Rat Infestation, Experts Warn.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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