Three carved pumpkins

Halloween is a festive time when everyone can go pumpkin picking and carve their own jack-o’-lantern. No matter how old you are, cutting a picture into a pumpkin and displaying your hard work on your front porch is fun. This said, your piece of Halloween art won’t just attract the admiration of your neighbors, but the interest of bugs and other critters, too. Pumpkins are an edible fruit, so it’s no surprise that your local wildlife will want a bite (via Britannica). Also, like any other food, your pumpkin will eventually begin decomposing, and that’s when it’ll really start attracting bugs.

Luckily, you can implement different methods to prevent these bugs from taking over your jack-o’-lantern. Then at the end of the season, you can make good use of your decaying pumpkin by composting it. Barton Hill Farms recommends cutting it into small pieces before you add it to your compost pile. You also want to ensure no seeds make it to the compost because they’re resilient and may turn your pile into a pumpkin patch.

1. Remove the pumpkin guts

Family carving a pumpkin

Removing all the guts while carving a pumpkin is an essential step to prevent bugs from swarming once it’s outside. Not only will the pulp attract flies, but it’ll also bring birds, squirrels, and deer to your front porch. The National Wildlife Federation explains that pumpkin flesh and seeds are delicious to animals. Once you carve into your pumpkin, you expose the yummy pulp and speed up decomposition.

Before you begin carving your image into your pumpkin, pull out as much of the stringy fibers and seeds as you can. Then use a spoon to scrap against the inside walls of the pumpkin. Doing this will help you get it as clean as possible and limit the amount of pulp left that your local wildlife will want to eat. Once you finish carving your pumpkin, you can use other methods as another layer of protection against bugs.

2. Apply bleach spray

White spray bottle

Bleach is an effective way of preventing bugs from ruining your perfectly carved jack-o’-lantern. It has a pungent smell that’ll keep away insects and mammals that may want a bit of the exposed pumpkin pulp. There’s no need to worry about it harming the local wildlife because Clorox explains that when diluted bleach is left in the sun, it breaks down to table salt. That means that the worst it’ll do is leave the squirrels or deer with an extra salty piece of pumpkin.

To do this method, dilute 1 teaspoon of bleach with 1 gallon of water. Then pour the mixture into a spray bottle and generously apply it to the inside of your jack-o’-lantern. You want to put it on the inside because the bleach prevents bugs by slowing down the decomposition of the pulp. This’ll prolong the life of your pumpkin and keep mildew from growing inside.

3. Cover it with lemon spray

Lemon slices

Lemons are a natural preventative against bugs taking over your jack-o’-lantern. Flies and other pests dislike citrus fruits because they’re acidic and smell pungent, according to The Homespun Hydrangea. It’ll also slow down rotting, which attracts bugs, because of the enzymes in the lemon juice (via the Institute of Food Science & Technology).

There are two recipes you can follow for this method. You can make an extra potent solution if you have lemons and distilled white vinegar. My Frugal Adventures recommends mixing 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice with 1 quart of water. Put this mix in a spray bottle and cover the outside of your pumpkin with the solution. Be careful not to use apple cider vinegar, however, because it’ll attract fruit flies. Another option is to mix just the lemon juice with water and apply it to your pumpkin with the same method.

4. Light a citronella candle

Pumpkins with candles inside

If you already like to light candles inside your jack-o’-lanterns, the citronella method for keeping bugs away from your jack-o’-lantern is perfect. Instead of using a tea light or battery-powered candle, you’ll simply switch it with a citronella-scented one. You can still carve your pumpkin the same way and don’t have to worry about diluting household items to cover them. Wildlife Informer explains that citronella candles keep mosquitoes and flies away from jack-o’-lanterns by overpowering the attractive smell of the exposed pulp.

However, there’s a downside to this method. It’ll only work if your candle is burning. Once you extinguish the flame, flies may start landing on your pumpkin, and you don’t want to leave a candle unattended. You also want to be careful if you have pets in your home. Citronella oil is mildly toxic to cats and dogs. If they were to eat the candles, they might experience vomiting and diarrhea, according to Daily Paws.

5. Keep it out of the sun

Two pumpkins on a porch

As said, bugs like flies are attracted to your jack-o’-lantern as it decomposes. To keep bugs from swarming around your porch, you want to prolong the life of your pumpkin. Heat and sunlight are your enemies when it comes to preserving carved jack-o’-lanterns. Cutting an image into them already speeds up the decay rate by exposing the inside flesh to the air. Once you put that carved pumpkin in direct sunlight, it’ll break down even faster.

To slow down the demise of your jack-o’-lantern, display it in a part of your yard or porch that’s covered and off the ground, according to Country Living. If it’s a warmer Halloween season, you can take even more measures to protect your pumpkin. Make some room in your refrigerator and store it there during the extra warm days. You can leave it in there for no longer than 10 days, however. When the weather cools down, display your pumpkin outside again.